Newsweek and the Daily Beast join forces

Joe Pompeo

Tina Brown is expected to address her staff at the Daily Beast on Friday morning about its merger with Newsweek, which was confirmed late Thursday.

It was unclear whether Newsweek owner Sidney Harman was on his way to New York to make an appearance in the magazine's Manhattan offices, as he did when the Washington Post Co. announced Aug. 2 that he would be its new owner.

Harman was at his home in Washington when The Upshot reached him by phone Thursday evening after reports that Newsweek and the Daily Beast had struck a deal to combine their operations. The move was first reported by the New York Observer.

When The Upshot spoke with Harman, a 92-year-old former stereo magnate, a little after 8 p.m., he said, "The deal is not done." But several hours later, the merger was finalized, and Brown made the official announcement in the Daily Beast.

The merger follows a protracted search by Harman for a new editor-in-chief of Newsweek, which he officially purchased in early October for $1, while agreeing to take on the magazine's mountain of debt. Earlier Thursday, media insiders were stunned when reports surfaced that talks involving Harman, Brown and the Daily Beast's financier, IAC Chairman Barry Diller, had resumed after collapsing about three weeks earlier. The first round of discussion reportedly ran aground because the three outsize personalities could not come to an agreement on editorial control.

"Some weddings take longer to plan than others," Brown wrote late Thursday. "The union of The Daily Beast and Newsweek magazine finally took place with a coffee-mug toast between all parties Tuesday evening, in a conference room atop Beast headquarters, the IAC building on Manhattan's West 18th Street. The final details were only hammered out last night."

Under the terms of the deal, Newsweek and the Daily Beast will become a 50-50 joint venture called the Newsweek Daily Beast Co., owned equally by Harman and IAC. The nuances of  how the editorial operation will function are still unclear, but Brown will have the title of editor-in-chief for both publications.

"In an admittedly challenging time, this merger provides the ideal combination of established journalism authority and bright, bristling website savvy," Harman said in a statement. "I like partnering with Barry Diller and I look forward to building our company."

For Brown, the new venture marks a return to the print magazine world where she has led a storied career, formerly as the editor-in-chief of the New Yorker, Vanity Fair and Talk. She launched Talk in 1999 with a lavish party. It folded less than three years later amid the post-9/11 economic rubble.

Brown brings with her the brand-name buzz that Newsweek has lacked since a series of high-profile departures, including Fareed Zakaria, Daniel Gross (now with Yahoo! Finance), Howard Fineman, Mark Hosenball and former Editor-in-Chief Jon Meacham.

Rumors that Brown might inherit Meacham's spot on the masthead were floated early on and seemed to pop up once a week, even though she would swat them down every time.

Simon Dumenco, a media reporter for AdAge, suggested way back in June that a Newsweek-Daily Beast union with Brown at the helm would be a success. He told the New York Times:

If I ran Newsweek, I'd convince Barry Diller to buy it, then I'd turn over the reins to Tina Brown. Or to put that another way, I think the way to save Newsweek is to convince Barry Diller to buy it — God knows he can afford it — for Tina Brown. In the same way that BusinessWeek became Bloomberg Businessweek — giving a niche, largely electronic media brand a national print presence — Newsweek could give Tina's Daily Beast blog more traction in the non-virtual world. ... I think Tina's Newsweek would find its own audience, and The Daily Beast could seduce a critical mass of major marketers interested in a cross-platform media play.

(Photo of Tina Brown courtesy of the Daily Beast)