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Sidney Harman buys Newsweek


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Sidney Harman buys Newsweek, Jon Meacham out


The Washington Post Co. has sold Newsweek to Sidney Harman, a wealthy industrialist and husband of Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), and Jon Meacham will not remain as the magazine’s editor, the company has confirmed.

The terms of the deal were not announced, though in a statement the company said it retains the magazine’s pension assets and liabilities and “certain employee obligations rising prior to sale.”

“In seeking a buyer for Newsweek, we wanted someone who feels as strongly as we do about the importance of quality journalism,” said Donald E. Graham, chairman and chief executive officer of The Washington Post Company. “He has pledged not only to continue to produce a lively, compelling and first-rate news magazine, but also an equally dynamic Newsweek.com – and he intends to keep a majority of Newsweek’s very talented staff.”

The sale is a painful acknowledgement of failure by Graham, who had stuck with the magazine, part of his company since 1961, through years of heavy losses. In announcing that Newsweek was for sale in May, Graham cited losses “in the tens of millions for the last two years,” and said that the company did not see “ a path to continuing profitability under our management."

The Washington Post, a division of the company, has also suffered declining readership and losses, but the The Washington Post Co. is in better shape than most media firms, thanks to its cable television and Kaplan educational services businesses.

Harman, 91, the chairman emeritus of Harman International Industries, made his fortune selling audio equipment, beginning with the world’s first stereo radio receiver in 1958. The exact size of his fortune is hard to quantify, as he doesn’t make the Forbes or Fortune billionaire lists, but the Wall Street Journal points to the fact that his wife is often cited as one of the richest members of Congress with a fortune estimated at $112 million in 2009.

Harman has been active in philanthropy and politics, serving in the Carter administration and on numerous boards, and is thought to be interested in enhancing his legacy by buying a symbol of Washington and global influence, the sources said. In Washington, he was the benefactor of the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Harman Center for the Arts.

Graham personally chose Harman from among several well-heeled bidders, in part because he would provide the most continuity for the magazine, according to the sources. Harman plans to keep Newsweek as a traditional newsmagazine, with a weekly print edition, and pledged to retain the majority of the magazine’s 350 employees, the sources said.
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