The Daily Beast and Newsweek have agreed to a merger, with Beast founder Tina Brown to serve as editor of both the website and the magazine.
The New York Observer, which first reported the agreement between Newsweek owner Sidney Harman and Barry Diller, chairman of Beast parent IAC, said it “establishes a daily role for Mr. Harman and strong editorial independence for Ms. Brown.”
Tina Brown confirmed the deal in a post on the Daily Beast. It will be her fifth stint as a magazine editor, after Tatler, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, and the misbegotten Talk. Brown said on NPR Friday morning that it added up to “four weddings and a funeral.”
Harman, a 92-year-old stereo magnate and the husband of Congresswoman Jane Harman, bought Newsweek for $1 in August, while also assuming the money-losing magazine’s substantial liabilities.
New York reported last month that early-stage talks between Harman, Diller, and Brown broke down over the issue of control. “Why in the world would I invest, engage in something like this, and be hands-off?” Harman asked. Brown sent a memo to Daily Beast staff on October 18 saying the deal hadn’t worked out. “The engagement was fun but the pre-nup got too complex,” she said.
The Beast deal regained momentum after other top editors told Harman they weren’t interested in the Newsweek job. Terry McDonnell, who runs the Sports Illustrated Group, was one person who passed. Like Tina before him, he was concerned that Harman wanted too much control over business and editorial matters.
Harman had spent almost six months interviewing candidates, and media watchers had begun to wonder if anyone would ever take the job. The delay not only continued to deplete whatever brand equity Newsweek has left, but encouraged yet more staffers to leave.
A source close to Harman explained that since the initial talks collapsed, Diller and Harman had spent time “talking and getting to like each other better.” Harman had continued to pursue editor candidates and, according to the source, was considering offers to two people earlier this week, both affiliated with the newspaper business. Harman’s willingness to move on apparently motivated Diller. It “helped Barry decide they should have one more serious session to see if they could do a deal,” the source said. By Thursday they had worked out the major issues.
Let the renaming games begin: NewsBeast? BeastWeek? The Daily Week? The Daily News? Pretty sure that last one is taken.
[This post has been modified since its original publication to add additional information.]