January 6, 2007 3:21 PM | Simon Carless
I was just chatting to a fellow journalist about this just now, and realized that though it's well known in the biz community, it hasn't filtered down to the game website level - as Paidcontent.org mentioned last week and I've heard off the record elsewhere, Ziff Davis is more actively entertaining offers for each of its three main magazine/websites divisions, including the Ziff Davis Game Group, home of EGM, Games For Windows magazine, and the 1UP.com network.
Ziff has previously disclosed back in July 2006 that "...the Company has retained Evercore Partners and Lehman Brothers as its financial advisors to assist it in exploring strategic alternatives to maximize investor value, including the possible sale of some or all of the Company's groups" - there were reports on that fact back then, but not much else has been discussed in public since.
In fact, it appears that active sale attempts for the Ziff Game Group are in progress, with PaidContent commenting just last week: "It has been tough going for the tech publisher, with the print books sucking blood out of the company. Lehman is pushing the digital assets of the two divisions [including the Game Group], according to our sources. " (1UP isn't split out from the other properties in the Game Group in Ziff's financials, but the most recent results revealed a loss of $0.5 million for the quarter on revenues of $9 million for the entire Game Group - admittedly not in the Xmas quarter, which will probably do much better for them.)
As I alluded to in a recent post on game magazine circulations, I do personally feel like Ziff might have closed Official PlayStation Magazine a little earlier than they might otherwise have done, in order to make the Game Group more attractive to potential purchasers, who obviously care most about 1UP. Which makes sense, because in most cases (prestige low-circulation magazines such as Edge notwithstanding), circs and revenues in consumer print are only going to trickle down over the next few years.
I don't see this turn of events as a particularly tragic for those who love good game journalism, anyhow. Personally, I find 1UP by far the most interesting of the major consumer game portals in terms of editorial interest and quality (with the possible exception of Eurogamer, mind you, but I'm a transplanted Brit, so that hardly helps my thinking!). I'm pretty sure that if 1UP and friends do end up somewhere else, they'll be encouraged to keep doing what they're doing.
As for suitors - I've certainly not heard anything, but large media companies would presumably be targets for Lehman, given that MTV and AOL (to name but two!) have been making purchases in the game website arena of late (GameTrailers, GameDaily, etc). Of course, this could be the kind of thing that rolls on for many more months without any actual action, too.
But given the lack of OPM revenue and the fact that the other divisions of Ziff (originally founded as a pulp/hobbyist magazine publisher in the '20s, lest we forget!) are being actively sold too, I would imagine we'd see something happen in the next 3-6 months. Watch this space?