As has been previously noted, there is only one bidder for Variety who has the capacity to write a check without picking up the phone. Thus, Ron Burkle was always seen as a leading contender to acquire the trade publication if he so chose. Apparently, he has.
Burkle’s Yucaipa Co. has been the most aggressive bidder and is most likely to emerge victorious from a sales process currently underway, according to two people close to the sale but not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
Much like the notion of Eli Broad purchasing the paper Fritz writes for, if it does transpire this way, it really could not have turned out any better for Variety. Burkle has deep pockets, tons of business acumen and, most likely, a solid big-picture plan that could spell trouble for the trade’s direct competitors. The purchase price would allegedly be close to what has previously been reported: $40 million.
As a side note, the LA Times article is the first to name some other parties reportedly involved in the phased-bid process: Crain’s Communications; Broadcasting & Cable owner New Bay Media; and private equity firm Great Hill Partners.
Update – 08/01/12: A report in the New York Post suggests that Burkle is actually fighting it out with THR’s parent company.