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The long-anticipated downsizing at Meredith — including the spinoffs of unwanted titles — is finally starting to happen.
Speculation surrounding the likely sale of Time, Fortune, Money and Sports Illustrated is swirling as folks inside and outside the company wonder which suitors will step to the plate.
Citigroup and Houlihan Lokey have been retained to find buyers for the four titles officially going on the block, according to a report in Reuters on Thursday, which cited sources “familiar with the situation.”
Staffers at Entertainment Weekly can breathe easier — they’re not going anywhere after their recent cross-country migration from New York to new digs in Los Angeles.
The names of possible suitors on the lips of industry experts include former Time Inc. CEO Joe Ripp and Jay Penske, head of Penske Media Corp.
PMC bought Rolling Stone and the Robb Report to add to digital titles such as Women’s Wear Daily.
American Media has expressed interest in buying some of the titles in the past, but sources say the company is tapped out financially after stretching to buy Us Weekly and Men’s Journal last year.
“They may look, but I am not sure they’ll end up as the buyer,” said Reed Phillips, an investment banker at Oaklins DeSilva+Phillips.
Telecom and tech companies may also take a look, sources said.
In addition to the sale of the four titles, Meredith is likely to undertake other belt-tightening moves.
Those are expected to be unveiled next week after an “integration study” by Deloitte Consulting is complete.
Between the downsizing and title sales, hundreds of jobs will be cut — in addition to the 600 to 700 positions already getting the heave-ho from the Time Customer Service Center in Tampa, Fla., which is being shut down.
Hearst-owned CDS will take over subscription processing and billing.
As for Entertainment Weekly, initially there was speculation that it would be added to the other four titles in the out box — but Jess Cagle, the editorial director of People and EW, was said to have made an impassioned pitch to Executive Chairman Steve Lacy and Chief Executive Tom Harty, his new bosses, to keep the magazines in the Meredith stable.
Cagle, who was skipped over as the red carpet host for the Oscar pre-show on ABC this year, is said to be keenly interested in developing TV projects and doing high-profile interviews.
Cagle already has a home out West, and over the Memorial Day weekend is getting married to LA-based TV producer Matt Whitney.