Paul Allen's Vulcan Ventures is wading into the bidding war for music magazines Vibe, Spin and Blaze, said reliable industry sources.
Only last week, Allen's Vulcan Ventures emerged as the surprise winner in the bidding war for The Sporting News, agreeing to pay owner Times Mirror Corp. a startling $100 million for the weekly magazine and Web site that collectively lost $6.7 million in 1999. Most publishing types thought the properties would go for less than half that amount.
But the bidding was pumped up because Allen was said to be bidding against Richard Nanula, the one-time Disney executive and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide CEO, who is now the chief executive officer of Broadband Sports Inc., a Los Angeles-based online sports and content provider.
Vibe, Spin and Blaze, which as a group are modestly profitable, were put on the block in early October by Robert Miller, CEO of the Miller Publishing Company, which was backed by the San Francisco-based venture capital firm Freeman Spogli.
Miller and his backers were said to be hoping to get more than $200 million for the titles and most publishing pundits were openly scoffing at the price tag.
But with Allen in the wings, the bidding war may suddenly heat up.
Allen, a co-founder with Bill Gates of Microsoft, has a investments ranging from cable holdings to pro sports franchises. Allen may have to up the ante the same way he did in the Sporting News battle to acquire the 726,028 circulation Vibe and the 546,382 circulation Spin.
Several other deep-pocketed suitors are in the running. Keith Clinkscales, whose Vanguarde Media just joined forces with the magazine wing of Black Entertainment Television, reiterated to The Post that he is interested in acquiring the Miller music titles. Clinkscales was a publisher of Vibe when it was launched by Quincy Jones and Time Inc., and Clinkscales stayed with it after the sale to Miller.
Until recently Clinkscales was considered a longshot to reacquire the titles, but now that he is teaming up with BET he is suddenly taken much more seriously as a player.
Time Warner's Entertainment Weekly was also said to be interested in bidding. So, too, is Essence Communications which recently hired Goldman Sachs to try to raise money to do the deal.
As part of its hunt, Essence Chairman and CEO Ed Lewis has talked about teaming up with the Time-owned magazines, but there has been little progress.
Other candidates to surface for the music magazines have included Jann Wenner's Wenner Media although he's rate a longshot since he is about to pump $50 million into Us to turn it into a weekly magazine and Viacom, owner of MTV, which would seem to be a natural fit.
At the time of the Sporting News takeover, Vulcan Ventures executives were telling people the they planned to make other acquisitions in the sports, music and entertainment fields including magazines.
A spokeswoman for Vulcan Ventures declined to comment on the company's alleged interest in the music magazines.
"That's just speculation, and we don't comment on speculation," said Vulcan's Susan Pierson.
A spokesman for Miller Publishing said the identity of all bidders is being kept confidential.