Green and Greener

Village Voice Media Shows Its Colors

To one alt-weekly watcher, the Cleveland-L.A. trade is a non-event. The more interesting story, this source says, will be when VVM investors decide to cash out. When a private equity firm buys a company, the typical pattern is to raise money, invest it, and at some point, liquidate and return the money to the investors. The investment window can extend as long as 10 years, but one observer speculates that VVM could go on the block as early as two years from now. Says Schneiderman, "The company could be sold tomorrow or in 10 years."

Who will buy the Voice the next time around? One school of thought says a potential buyer might be a daily newspaper chain. According to this argument, alternatives have the young, affluent readers that the dailies want. Plus, there is a precedent: in April 1999, Times Mirror bought New Mass Media, a chain of alternative papers in the Northeast. But there are drawbacks: If you own a daily and an alt-weekly in the same town, you probably won't want the alternative bashing the daily, and traditional advertisers for the daily may be squeamish about the sex ads in the alternative.

The other school of thought is that one of the alternative chains will buy the other out, a fantasy both sides seem to be savoring these days. And as for Schneiderman, who at 55 has been with the Voice 24 years? "I don't have an exit strategy," he said. "I'm here for as long as whoever owns it wants me here."

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