Barry Diller Explores Newsweek Sale After Being ‘Seduced’

Barry Diller, chairman of IAC/InterActiveCorp, said he’s exploring a sale of Newsweek, the magazine that went online-only this year, after concluding he erred in merging it with the Daily Beast website.

“I got seduced into Newsweek,” Diller said on stage at the D: All Things Digital conference today in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. “It much better belongs in a widely diversified or somewhat diversified publishing company that has publishing assets.”

The Newsweek/Daily Beast Co. plans to look for possible buyers for Newsweek and focus on the Daily Beast brand, according to an internal memo from Editor-in-Chief Tina Brown and Chief Executive Officer Baba Shetty. Newsweek is on pace to break even by the end of this year, they said in the note.

Newsweek became majority-owned by New York-based IAC last year. Billionaire Chairman Barry Diller told Bloomberg TV last month that he regrets buying the property, which he merged with the Daily Beast website in 2010. He said publishing a weekly magazine when news has become instantaneous is a “fool’s errand.”

Newsweek published its final print issue in December.

“We’ve transitioned the business to one that will break even in Q4 of this year,” Brown and Shetty said in the memo.

IAC doesn’t officially disclose financial figures for the Newsweek/Daily Beast unit. A person with direct knowledge of the matter told Bloomberg News in July the business would probably lose as much as $22 million in 2012. The publisher cut editorial jobs in December in an effort to hold down expenses.

“Last year, as we worked through the U.S. print shutdown, it would have been impossible to even explore options to sell Newsweek,” Brown and Shetty said. “Our obligation was to turn the business around, and develop a breakthrough digital product. We’ve done just that.”

Justine Sacco, an IAC spokeswoman, declined to comment on a possible sale. Variety reported yesterday that IAC was seeking buyers for Newsweek.

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