Sources from deep inside The New York Times Company, owner of The New York Times, Boston Globe, numerous TV stations, regional newspapers, and various digital properties, and from The Onion, a web based satirical newspaper (www.theonion.com) have verified the rumors. It's true, The Onion, Inc. company headquartered in Madison, Wisconsin has made a offer to buy The New York Times, Inc., company for stock.
This is a serious offer and word is that NYT Chairman and Publisher Arthur Sulzberger sees it as a way instantly transform his family's company into a major Internet content provider and thereby pump up the company's stock creating instant wealth for many long time shareholders.
According to people close to the talks, Sulzberger and other New York Times executives were recently seen in Madison Wisconsin where they reportedly attended a Friday afternoon beer bash at The Onion headquarters. Apparently, the executives of both companies really hit it off and have even gone on camping trips together. Executive Editor Joseph Lelyveld of The New York Times and Onion's Editor-in-Chief Robert Siegel have formed a "mutual admiration club" and are seriously considering swapping jobs once the merger is finalized.
"Some of the ideas these two groups discuss once they've had a few beers is phenomenal, particularly when you get Mr. Sulzberger into it," reported one of the Onion editors. The New York Times group is particularly intrigued with the success that The Onion has had by using invented names in all its stories except for public figures. By employing an Internet journalistic standard to an old media newspaper like The Times, it is felt that editorial costs can be reduced by a whopping 80%!
Cultural differences between the two companies and differing standards of journalism aren't seen as major stumbling blocks to getting the deal done. The biggest challenge will be to get the two sides to agree to a valuation that gives shareholders of both companies plenty to cheer for. This is complicated because The Onion has a market cap that is several hundred billion dollars higher than the New York Times Company. The expectation, though is this will be worked out to be similar to AOL's purchase of Time Warner, with The Onion shareholders getting about 55 to 60 percent of the merger company. Thus, The New Times Shareholder will see an instant up tick in their stock which should compensate them more than adequately for losing control of the company.
Onion Publisher & President Peter K. Haise will reportedly give up his position to become Chairman of the combined company and move to New York. Arthur Sulzberger will more to Wisconsin, to run The Onion which will be the new flag ship of the what will be called "Onion New York Times Media Giant Company." Haise and Sulzberger have also agreed to swap houses and families as part of the deal, which will facilitate their need to move quickly.
The resulting "Onion New York Times Media Giant Company" will be one of the world's largest media companies in terms of market cap, though only half as big as AOL/ Time-Warner. The year 2000 is already being seen as the year that old media surrendered to new media and there are some more surprises to come. The biggest merger yet could happen this summer when Wired Digital spins out Suck.com which will in turn make a bid to buy The Walt Disney Corporation. Stay tuned dear readers, Suck!Disney could become the biggest acquistion of all time.