The Messenger founder Jimmy Finkelstein held a last minute discussion with Los Angeles Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong about buying The Messenger, three people familiar with the situation have told The Hollywood Reporter.
The news comes just days after the L.A. Times laid off 115 newsroom employees. Soon-Shiong spoke with Finkelstein on Tuesday, the sources said. Soon-Shiong then offered what has been described as “lowball” figure for the flailing publication, but by Wednesday the offer had fallen through, according to the sources.
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Just hours later, The Messenger was shuttered with 300 staffers let go. “I am personally devastated to share that we have made the painfully hard decision to shut down The Messenger, effective immediately,” Finkelstein told shattered staff in an email. The New York Times first reported deal talks between Soon-Shiong and Finkelstein.
“Over the past few weeks, literally until last night, we exhausted every option available and have endeavored to raise sufficient capital to reach profitability. Unfortunately, we have been unable to do so, which is why we haven’t shared the news with you until now. This is truly the last thing I wanted, and I am deeply sorry,” Finkelstein wrote.
The talks between Soon-Shiong and Finkelstein have been described by the three people familiar with the matter as a desperate last-minute bid by Finkelstein to save the money-losing website. The sources stressed that the discussions were preliminary, and the offer was off the table several hours after it was made.
“The economic reality of our organization is extremely challenging,” Chris Argentieri, the L.A. Times’ president and chief operating officer, said in a memo to staff announcing the recent layoffs. “Despite our owner’s willingness to continue to invest, we need to take immediate steps to improve our cash position.”
The paper’s editor, Kevin Merida, was ousted from his role last month after repeated clashes with Soon-Shiong and his daughter, Nika, according to two people familiar with the matter.
“Today’s decision is painful for all, but it is imperative that we act urgently and take steps to build a sustainable and thriving paper for the next generation. We are committed to doing so,” Soon-Shiong told L.A. Times staffers at the time of the layoffs.
Soon-Shiong and a spokesperson for the L.A. Times declined to comment. Finkelstein and a rep for The Messenger did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
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