When’s the best time to sell a high-profile media property? Well, probably not during a pandemic-induced recession. And also maybe not amid the systemic, long-term decline in publishing—a sector that was challenging (to say the least) even pre-COVID. And also probably not when said media property is reportedly losing millions of dollars per year.
That’s the unenviable challenge Verizon has in trying to sell HuffPost. (News broke last week that the telecom giant’s Verizon Media division has been seriously shopping the site formerly known as The Huffington Post, which it’s owned since 2015 when it acquired and absorbed HuffPost’s parent, AOL.)
These days, once-mighty media properties tend to change hands in fire-sale transactions, but we were reminded of the publishing industry’s cash-flush glory days when we chanced across a front-page story, headlined “Murdoch shops ‘TV Guide,’” from our May 21, 1990 issue as part of our continuing “90 Years of Ad Age” deep-dive. It wasn’t exactly the perfect moment to sell—as Ad Age noted in another story in that issue, publishers were facing “a continuing ad-page shortage” (that softness foreshadowed the U.S. economy formally entering an eight-month recession that would begin in July of that year)—but Rupert Murdoch was still able to credibly slap a $2.6 billion price tag on the digest-sized print weekly.