HarperCollins is laying off staffers, the Toronto 'Metro' is written by interns, and approximately 41,000 media jobs have been slashed since the start of the recession. But things are looking up in France!
Turns out it's not just Rupert Murdoch who's interested in buying Newsday; Mort Zuckerman, the real-estate magnate who owns the Daily News, and James Dolan, whose family owns Cablevision, Madison Square Garden, and the Knicks, are making bids as well.
If taking public companies private is the hot new thing in megabusiness, the Dolans just became the most fashionable billionaires out there: After three years and three failed attempts to privatize Cablevision, Chuck and Jim have just worked out a deal with their company's board that will restore the family's total control over their lumbering brainchild. Cablevision, which comes complete with holdings like the Knicks and the Rangers, Radio City Music Hall, and over $12 billion in debt, will change hands for $10.5 billion in cash. With the liabilities worked in, that adds up to almost $23 billion. The Dolans pledge to cash out the current shareholders at $36.26 a share, which is their highest offer yet — a hearty 11 percent over the stock's actual value as of yesterday. We learn all this from the Times, of course, where the Sulzbergers are no doubt paying attention. One hopes.
Cablevision Agrees to Sell Itself to the Dolans [NYT]
Cablevision honcho and Madison Square Garden chief Jim Dolan announced today that he's giving Knicks coach and president Isiah Thomas a multiyear contract extension based on the team's "evident progress" — a term that seems destined to join "mission accomplished" in the Optimist's Hall of Fame. Let's review what's evident, shall we? On the positive side, the Knicks have won 46 percent of their games this season (compared to just 28 percent last year) and are fighting for a playoff spot. On the negative, they're still the highest-paid team in the NBA (for which Isiah is largely to blame), winning even 46 percent of their games still means the Knicks are losing more than half, and they're playing mediocre ball against historically weak competition. In other words, the team's progress seems roughly on pace with that of the Second Avenue subway or the Freedom Tower. So while it's true they haven't measurably regressed, Dolan's use of the prefix "pro" strikes us as a bit much. If we were him, we might have played it safe and gone with "evident gress." There are definitely clear signs of gress. —Sam Anderson
That crazy, Oedipal media-mogul family, the Dolans of Long Island, seems determined to take Cablevision private. For the second time in sixteen months, chairman Charles and his CEO son, Jim, are offering their shareholders a buyout, this time upping their offer to $27 a share. (Shares in Cablevision — which includes not just the cable company but also trophy properties like Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall, and the Knicks and Rangers — rose on the news.)
We at Daily Intel don't claim to be financial experts. But we're not bad at reading between the lines of a public statement. "We continue to feel that succeeding in this fiercely competitive environment requires a long-term, entrepreneurial management perspective that is not constrained by the public markets' constant focus on short-term results," the Dolans said, and it seems likely that this buyout is the senior Dolan's bid to keep sinking money into his pet satellite venture, Voom, which has already lost over $600 million and whose launch almost tore the family apart — as chronicled by Joel Siegel a year and a half ago in a March 2005 feature for New York.
Sadly for the Dolans, though, this long-term investment strategy might be a boon only to Charles's Voom. As for Jim's pet project — throwing maximum money at the Knicks with no discernible positive effect — we have a feeling fans will always retain their constant focus on short-term results.
Oedipus at the Garden [NYM]
Dolans Try New Bid to Take Cablevision Private [NYT]
• NYPD and DOT realize, after five years, that concrete bollards don't actually protect us from terrorism. They do, however, teach us new words like "bollard." [NYT]
• The Dolans really want to take Cablevision private. So much, in fact, that they'll be happy to absorb $11.3 billion in debt (the company is valued at $7.9 billion). [WCBS]
• Yanks bask in the ultimate humiliation: throwing the postseason to the Tigers and getting outlasted by the Mets. Steinbrenner is likely to fire Torre and replace him with Lou Piniella. [WNBC]
• The city's operas try to freshen up their crowd by offering $20 or $25 orchestra seats. Giving quotes like "We were all amazed that out of the woodwork these people came roaring up" does not help the populist cause. [NYT]
• In a textbook case of good news, bad news, cleaner water in the Hudson nurses back to life an array of disgusting critters like shipworms and gribbles. Bring back the pretty petroleum slicks! [IHT]
• And finally, city photojournalists, sounding surreally combative ("We are not a group to be trifled with"), demand rights to shoot in Port Authority facilities. Once you've seen the Christopher Street PATH station at dawn, you'll understand. [AMNY]
[Ed. note: Apologies, by the way, for the late start. The Morning Line should post about two hours earlier than it did this morning, assuming in the future we can figure out how to use Movable Type.]