Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Media Mogul v2.0

I'm a few days late on the landmark sale of The New York Observer to 25-year old Jared Kushner, NYU Law student and son of imprisoned developer Charles Kushner, but it would be wrong to move on without discussing it. The Observer, owned by Arthur Carter since 1989, is a 50,000 circulation weekly that covers New York's upper crust media, politics and real estate - of which the elder Kushner is occasionally a subject.

Hold on a second, you might say. You're telling me that a 25-year-old kid blew $10 million on the niche paper that spawned "Sex and the City" when the entire industry's going down in flames (and the paper loses $2 million annually)?

Well yes, I am. But that's not really the point, even if
the New York Times will be fitting less of all the news that's fit to print.

While Kushner plays carefully in his new position in the spotlight, we should take note: aside from his young age (irrelevant), bloodline (so far, irrelevant) and lack of some necessary bottom-up media perspective (all too relevant), this is bound to make waves in an era of media consolidation. Some say Kushner is the model of a 21st century media mogul. I think this is a bigger trend - the trend of financiers wooing small-time publications for publicity. Current media moguls aren't exactly guaranteed to hang on to their holdings, and I doubt Robert DeNiro really intended to trade sushi for satire when he courted the peachy paper. Unless Kushner's dedicated to composing the Observer's necessary comeback run, it's a near-guarantee that Kushner will rise above the flotsam of its imminent demise and move on to bigger investment deals. Kushner must see New York's salmon-colored paper as more than a stepping stone, or it's inevitable that the Upper East Side's favorite daily won't make it upstream.

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