Village Voice sold

The New York paper that was once the lone wolf of alternative journalism has become the crown jewel in a nascent media empire.

Published January 4, 2000 12:27PM (EST)

After a suspenseful four-month wait, the Village Voice will announce Wednesday that it has found a buyer: the Village Voice.

Well, not quite. But as reported by the New York Times' Felicity Barringer Tuesday (and predicted by the New York Daily News' Celia McGee last month), a group of friendly investors has bought the Voice and the other papers Leonard Stern put on the block for an undisclosed sum. (Stern was asking $200 million.)

And the investors, headed by the money management team of Weiss, Peck and Greer, have appointed current Voice publisher David Schneiderman head of a nascent media group that will control eight alternative papers, including the L.A. Weekly, the Seattle Weekly, the Minneapolis City Pages and the Nashville Scene -- minimizing worries that the sale will bring radical change to the 44-year-old granddaddy of alternative papers.

The Voice has survived a succession of owners over the years (including the redoubtable Rupert Murdoch) and could conceivably have fared worse. The irony of the left-leaning Voice becoming the crown jewel of a primo investment opportunity is an old one: As the larger media empires (Time, Disney, Hearst) continue in their conquest of the sky above, upstarts like this unnamed media consortium and Art Howe's City Communications (a part owner of the Nashville Scene and a thwarted suitor of another alt media chain, Alternative Media Inc.) will battle for the ground below: the all but ubiquitous "alternative" weeklies.

As Robert Broadwater of Veronis, Suhler & Associates Inc., who handled the sale of the Stern papers, told the Times' Barringer, the Voice has what investors want: A demographic of college-educated people in their early 30s making $40K and up. While the Voice may pride itself on its editorial product (and editor Don Forst is welcome to stay "as long as he wants to," according to Schneiderman), media money men see the weekly giveaway paper as a reader-magnet, stuffed with classifieds, personals and ads for "massage" providers.

Full service, indeed.

By Sean Elder

Sean Elder is a frequent contributor to Salon.

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