Wasserstein Drops Out Of Race For BusinessWeek

The list of suitors for BusinessWeek just got a little shorter. Bruce Wasserstein has decided against making a final bid for the magazine, say executives familiar with the situation.

A spokesman for Wasserstein declined to comment. Wasserstein, the chairman and CEO of financial giant Lazard, owns the business weekly The Deal and a substantial stake in business publisher Penton Media. He also owns New York magazine, which he bought in 2003.

Wasserstein had been seen by many observers—including this one—as one of the likeliest buyers for BusinessWeek. His exit places Bloomberg LP as perhaps the candidate to beat—assuming, of course, that company, which only met with BusinessWeek management yesterday, goes through with a bid of its own.

The downside to a possible Bloomberg bid is simple: the company has virtually no experience with making deals. It has made a grand total of two acquisitions in the past twenty or so years. It bought an obscure three-person data firm called Sinkers in 1987, and in 2006 it bought the technology company Brainpower.

But the absence of Wasserstein means Bloomberg will not have to compete with one of the market’s most formidable dealmakers. (UPDATE: Since I posted this, several people have correctly pointed out that Dan Doctoroff, President of Bloomberg LP since late '07 and a former private equity exec, knows a thing or two about making deals.)

Final bids for BusinessWeek are due today, although some executives close to the situation suggest that today’s deadline may be somewhat porous. The other companies known to have made preliminary—that is, nonbinding—-bids and which thus may place final bids are: ZelnickMedia, OpenGate Capital, Platinum Equity, Warburg Pincus, and Inc. and Fast Company owner Joe Mansueto.

Around three other interested parties, whose identities are not known, placed preliminary bids as well.

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