Amazon Gets Brilliant: audiobook publisher bought for undisclosed terms

In a move hinting that Amazon may be interested in offering more than just music at its soon to be launched online music store, Amazon has acquired the nations largest independent audio-book publisher Brilliance Audio.  The terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

Brilliance, which was founded in the 1980s and is based in Michigan, publishes audio titles from best selling authors ranging from Deeprak Chopra to Ken Follett. Brilliance releases twelve to fifteen audio-books a month in MP3 format on CD or for digital downloads.  Amazon currently offers about 100k audio-book titles, approximately one thousand of which come from Brilliance.

In acquiring Brilliance, Amazon will be in a position to leverage its publishing relationships (as well as its own in- house efforts) to expand the availability of the audio book format to a much larger range of titles. Click to Read More

Amazon acquires DPReview

Yesterday Amazon acquired popular London-based digital camera review site DPReview for undisclosed terms. DPreview, which was founded in 1998 by Phil Askey, offers unbiased, reviews of digital cameras and accessories as well as discussion forums, industry news and a product comparison database.

The DPReview site, which has fans on both sides of the Atlantic, has become extremely popular. For March, the site had more than 7m unique viewers. That coincides with the rapid growth in the digital camera marketplace. Last year (digital still-photography) generated nearly $18b in camera sales.

An article on financial news blog Seeking Alpha is noting that the back&ndashend infrastructure for DPReview’s ecommerce links has been provided historically by CNET. If that report is accurate, the purchase by Amazon could steal away some traffic from CNET’s monthly totals.

Following the announcement, web forums have been filled with speculation about the terms of the deal. The web has also been abuzz with questions of whether DPreview will retain its editorial independence. DPReview has largely been known for its unbiased reviews. Fans are questioning whether they will continue to be able offer the same unbiased quality of services that built the site’s reputation if it is now owned by a retailer who will have a vested interest in the reporting it offers. Without that independence DPReview will be no different than any of the many companies providing professional, or user-rated, reviews of cameras: from Yahoo to AOL, etc.

Family Affair: Tribune, Cablevision, Dow Jones

The humorist Erma Bombeck once said “You hear a lot of dialogue on the death of the American family. Families aren’t dying. They’re merging into big conglomerates.

paper family cutoutLooking at some of the biggest corporate acquisitions completed (or in the works) so far this year –, and the power of a few families in those transactions (especially those holding alternate classes of  shares with special voting rights ) – her sentiment may have been more accurate than she intended.

First there was Tribune Co., the countries 3rd largest newspaper company.    It sold to Sam Zell but only after the Chandler family, whose trusts controlled more than 20% of the stock, initiated a strategic review and pushed for its sale.

Now there are two more multi billion dollar sales in discussion, or on the grapevine, where a single family will play a major role:

1.  The Offer:

Today, the Wall Street Journal reported News Corp (Fox, MySpace etc) made a friendly offer of approximately $5billion to acquire Dow Jones, the publisher of the Wall Street Journal, Barrons, MarketWatch and owner of  other financial-information services.  The offer constituted a 67% premium over market value (the stock jumped more than 50% to $56.20 a share. 

The deal, even at a premium, could be a valuable addition to News Corps product portfolio. Based on 2006 revenue, the addition would increase News Corp. newspaper and magazine revenue by a $1b/yr  to over $6b (approximately 20% gain).  The Marketwatch property would also provide another news channel to be added to the new MySpace news offerings.  Given the troubled state of the publishing industry, one has to believe that Rupert Murdoch and his team at News Corp see significant value both in combining Dow Jones business news with Fox TV news properties, and also in the online components of the deal (both those already online, and those that could be).

The Family behind the Scenes:  

The Bancroft family holds 24.7% of the outstanding shares of Dow Jones. The voting rights of those shares give them control 64.2% of the company.  So far, the family has rebuffed the offer.  That may be because they aren’t’ interested in selling but that is unlikely. Since 1986 the family has reduced it’s holdings by more than 50%.   More likely is the theory that the rejection is gamesmanship to further drive the price. Click to Read More

Life Magazine: a eulogy

Yesterday marked the last day of the print publication of Life Magazine.   The weekly photographic-centric magazine, which for decades refused to die, three times trying to re-invent itself to suit the times (1972, 1978 and 2004),  finally lost its battle with New Media.   It will live on in some form online.

In the early days of modern media when Print  was king, Radio an upcoming prince, and Television just a fledginling beacon, the image-centric, photograph-laden, magazine became an icon. 

Life Magazine was born in the great depression, the name bought from another publication by Time publisher Henry Luce for $92,000.  Life’s  first issue was launched November 23, 1936 and sold for a mere 10cents.  It was the first magazine of its era, of any era,  to give as much emphasis  to photojournalism as to print.  A small sample from  the long list of the notable names who contributed to the magazine and saw their work published on its pages and covers includes Norman Rockwell, Ernest Hemingway,  Mary Ellen Mark, Robert Capa, Gordon Parks, and Alfred Eisenstaedt.

Life Magazine CoversOver the decades Life published some of the most memorable images of the 20th century.; from the conflicts and struggles of war times, to the lifestyles of celebrities, to the achievements and failures of nations.  JFK, Vietnam, Korea, the Civil Rights movement, Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, landing on the moon.  

Photojournalism will forever owe the magazine a debt of gratitude for its influence and support in shaping their industry.   Perhaps the greatest demonstration of this influence dates back to 1944.  Robert Capa, one of the most famed war photographers of all time, landed on the beaches of Normandy for D-Day, side by side with the soldiers of the first wave  shooting images for Life and sending them home.  Capa was the only photographer there.  (In 1954, when Capa was killed by a landmine in Vietnam, he was again working for Life.) 

Click to Read More

Yahoo and Newspaper Consortium up the stakes

In  a conference call yesterday, Yahoo and the so called “Newspaper Consortium,” which was formed in November, and  includes more than 250 newspapers across 44 states including the holdings of large publishers like McClatchy and Media News, announced an expansion of their advertising joint venture. (Notably absent from the Consortium are Gannet and Tribune (the two heavyweights). They have been reported to be developing their own Ad Network. McClatchy was going to be part of that effort but switched course to work with Yahoo)

Initially the papers represented in the Consortium and Yahoo worked together in a partnership for job related advertising with Yahoo’s Hot-Jobs property.  Now, in a second part of what has been described as a three part deal, the two will focus on broader, and more lucrative, joint advertising.

Under the terms of the deal, both Yahoo and the papers Click to Read More

Getty Images: shopping spree

Seattle based Getty Images continues to pursue an aggressive expansion model by means of acquisition.

Today, in its second acquisition of the year, Getty Images announced that it was acquiring Ireland-based Pixel Graphics holdings for $135m in cash.

Pixel Graphics Holdings is the parent company to Stockbyte and Stockdisk, two royalty-free content providers. The transition will be an easy one: most of Stockbyte’s image collection was already distributed through Getty, and the remainder of its catalog will follow shortly.

Speaking of the transaction, Jonathan Klein, Getty Images’ co-founder and Chief Executive Officer said: “Worldwide demand for imagery continues to grow as our customers increasingly explore new, image-rich communication platforms as a means to break through the clutter. The acquisition is in line with our strategy of acquiring and producing increased amounts of relevant wholly-owned imagery."

The wholly-owned royalty-free content available through Stockbyte is a significant departure from the user-owned royalty-free content delivered through Getty’s other image service: istockphoto.

There is no question, Getty is busy. In addition to this transaction, earlier this year Getty acquired the parent company of Wireimage, which owned the largest celebrity photo and video archive. In March, it also, signed a partnership deal to license and distribute photos and video footage from Warner Brothers Entertainment’s archives. I wonder what is next on the shopping list.

Tribune Sold!

After 6 months of dating, and tabloid-worthy rumors and speculation not far behind the kind of paparazzi press coverage Paris Hilton and Lindsey Lohan get, Tribune Co. today announced it had settled on a buyer. The newspaper and media giant will be sold to billionaire real estate investor, and local Chicagoan, Sam Zell for approximately $8.2b.

The share price for the purchase will be $34, a premium of approximately 6% over last weeks trading but in line with pricing from September, when Tribune Co. announced it was for sale. That price is less than the average 9.8x multiple of Price to EBIDTA for Tribune’s public competitors.

tribune-marriedThe transaction will occur in two tender offers, the first for 126m shares will close in the second quarter. The second, for the remaining shares will close in the fourth quarter. The company will borrow the money in two $4.2b increments to buy back the stock.  Merrill Lynch and JP Morgan will finance the deal.

Zell, who recently sold his Equity Office Properties Trust to Blackstone Group for $39b is personally investing $315m and will gain rights to a warrant entitling him to buy 40% of the company.   To reduce the debt load which, including borrowing for the purchase price, will exceed $14b, Zell has announced a plan to sell the Chicago Cubs baseball team at the close of the current baseball season.  It’s also a possibility that Zell will consider selling the LA Times property to Eli Broad and Ron Burkle, the LA-based investors who lost out in their bid for Tribune to Zell.

With Tribune a private company, Zell and his management team, will have a better situation to turn around the company than if it remained public.

Click to Read More

Page 12 of 14« First...1011121314