Chronic media luncher Michael Wolff, out of the trade game and now writing for the Guardian, says that both Bloomberg (the company) and Thomson Reuters are vying to purchase the Financial Times, according to a recent daytime companion of his. The source is in a position to know because they are a senior exec at Reuters, but not in a position to know everything because “he or she is not from the deal-making side.” The idea that two companies made hugely rich off of their financial data, but also interested in building massive media operations, often think about buying a reputable business paper is not new (The Wall Street Journal might be another possibility for both), but Wolff articulates exactly why buying a newspaper is good for a brand, if not for a bank account.
There are four companies that dominate the brand name financial information business: Pearson with the FT, News Corp with the WSJ, and Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters with their myriad assets. The latter two make their money and vast margins in this business. The former make their money in other businesses and maintain a foothold in financial information and news for mostly extra-business reasons. It is certainly true that neither Bloomberg nor Thomson Reuters need a newspaper – and yet it is true, too, that it could change the game were one of them to get a major financial news organ (so much so that each would probably do what is necessary to try to prevent the other from getting one – vastly enhancing the value of both the FT and WSJ). Indeed, while neither Pearson nor News Corp are ever going to turn the FT or WSJ into significant earners, Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters, with their back-end financial information resources, might be able to build a powerful and profitable financial news front end.
A deal with Bloomberg, Wolff says, just fell through, leaving an opening for Reuters, which is “in clear discussions,” but at “an informal level of conversation,” according to his source. The whole thing could take a while no matter which way it goes, but with Michael Bloomberg out of a job soon and both companies basically printing money, a foray for either (or both) into a favorite side project of the rich — newspapers — would shock almost nobody.
Update: A Pearson’s spokesperson has responded, “The FT is a very valued and valuable part of Pearson. It is not for sale.”