Newsweek’s New Owner: “I’m Not Here to Make Money”

More than three months after it put Newsweek up for sale, The Washington Post company announced yesterday that it had signed a deal to sell the financially troubled newsweekly to Sidney Harman, 91, the founder of Harman International Industries, makers of stereo equipment. The sale price has not been made public, but several news outlets have reported that Harman will pay a small amount of cash and assume much of the financially troubled magazine’s financial obligations. Also yesterday Newsweek editor Jon Meacham announced he was stepping down. He said he had long planned to stay with the magazine just long enough to see it through its sale.

The Harman name is familiar to some of us old enough to have played vinyl records on turntables. In its profile of Harman, The Wall Street Journal notes that in 2007, Goldman Sachs and KKR bought the stereo company’s debt, and Harman resigned as chairman. He has also served as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; member of the executive committee at Aspen Institute and member of the Council on Foreign Relations. His wife, Jane, is a Congressional representative.

The Washington Post Company reportedly had other prospective buyers interested in Newsweek, including some like Fred Drasner, former executive at US News and World Report and the New York Daily News, who had publishing experience. Donald Graham, head of the Post Company, told Newsweek staffers that he appreciated Harman’s commitment to quality, and that the buyer had no plans for more staff cuts. According to CNN, Harman himself told staffers that he’s not worried about turning a profit, at least not in the foreseeable future. "Break even is a serious accomplishment in this environment. I’m not here to make money. I’m here to make joy."

In November, PDN reported that the magazine cut 12 jobs from the editorial side, including its two top photo editors, after advertising revenue fell 48 percent in a year.

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