Merger talks between Newsweek and The Daily Beast are back on—but then again, they were never off.
The New York Post’s Keith Kelly reported this morning that “after a three-week cooling off period, talks are back on.” Two sources close to the search for the next editor of Newsweek tell the Observer that the magazine’s new owner, Sidney Harman, and Beast owner Barry Diller met this week in New York to see if there is still a chance for a deal.
But after initial negotiations collapsed less than a month ago, the two men have never totally broken contact, continuing to explore common ground in a series of meetings. Both Dr. Harman and Mr. Diller are strong-willed businessmen who want ultimate control of the new entity, a source familiar with their thinking said—but if either party decides to budge, a deal could gel very quickly.
Dr. Harman and Mr. Diller did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Neither did Beast editor Tina Brown. It was the possibility of Ms. Brown—who formerly helmed Talk, Vanity Fair and The New Yorker—editing a glossy magazine again that fascinated the media world for several weeks this fall.
(Disclosure: I worked at Newsweek until Oct. 29.)
Dr. Harman signed a contract to buy the ailing magazine on August 2, but he has still not found an editor-in-chief. The search process has not gone well. After the obvious first choice, Newsweek International editor Fareed Zakaria, said he was not interested, Dr. Harman bet heavily—and still bets heavily—on landing Ms. Brown as his editor. Backup options have not panned out.
Daily Beast executive editor Edward Felsenthal has been thoroughly considered, and was a very early candidate—a situation made awkward as the courtship of his boss, Ms. Brown, became very public.
Former Observer editor Peter Kaplan was also in the mix—until he and Dr. Harman crossed signals about a dinner meeting, leaving the impression that Dr. Harman had stood Mr. Kaplan up.
Some names bandied about the Newsweek newsroom do not appear to have reached Dr. Harman’s team in any seriousness.
One backup-backup option for Dr. Harman is becoming an increasingly likely one: that he will not find a marquee editor to take the Newsweek reigns, and will ask Nisid Hajari—one of two managing editors currently editing the magazine on an interim basis—to stay on. (The other, Dan Klaidman, has a book to work on.)
On Nov. 22, the magazine will open up shop at 7 Hanover Square in the Financial District—its third move in 18 months, including an internal relocation at its current Hudson Street home.