Tycoon Sidney Harman buys Newsweek ‘for a dollar’

The struggling US current affairs magazine Newsweek has been rescued by 91-year-old audio equipment tycoon, Sidney Harman, who bought the title last night for a nominal amount reported to be just a single dollar.

Harman, who described Newsweek as “a national treasure”, purchased the business from the Washington Post Company, which put it up for sale in May, after failing to stem a steady stream of heavy losses.

The buyout is likely to come as a relief to Newsweek‘s workforce of more than 300 who were facing the possibility of the 77-year-old periodical closing.

Harman’s bid is understood to have been favoured by the Washington Post‘s publisher because the tycoon pledged to keep on most employees – although Newsweek‘s editor, Jon Meacham, is to leave.

“Harman has pledged not only to continue to produce a lively, compelling and first-rate news magazine, but also an equally dynamic Newsweek.com. He intends to keep a majority of Newsweek‘s very talented staff,” said Donald Graham, chief executive of the Washington Post Company, which had owned the magazine since 1961.

Harman is the founder of Harman International, a Connecticut-based manufacturer of speakers, stereos and in-car audio systems. The nonagenarian established the business in 1953 and retired in 2008, although he remains chairperson emeritus. The company has nearly 10 000 employees and racked up sales of $2,9-billionn last year. The tycoon is married to Jane Harman, a Democratic congresswoman representing southern California.

In a statement, Harman said he would “look forward to this great journalistic, business and technological challenge”. The California-based entrepreneur has sufficiently deep pockets to take a long-term view in making Newsweek profitable. The New York Times reported that Harman was paying just $1 and would take on considerable liabilities, although the Washington Post Company declined to reveal the terms of the agreement.

Newsweek has suffered operating losses of $44-million since 2007. In common with many other magazines, the title struggled to cope with a deep slump in advertising and waning circulation, as readers migrated to digital publications. Its readership trails that of its rival Time magazine and it has been unable to match the momentum of the Economist.

In a relaunch last year, Newsweek cut back on covering everyday news in favour of in-depth reporting on selected subjects, and more opinionated coverage. – guardian.co.uk

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