By Peter Lauria and Nadia Damouni
Feb 15 AllThingsD, the widely read technology
blog run by Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg, has begun
discussions with owner News Corp about extending or
ending their partnership, sources familiar with the situation
According to these sources, AllThingsD's contract with News
Corp expires at the end of the year. One of the sources said
Swisher and Mossberg have to deliver a business plan by next
week to Robert Thomson, the former Wall Street Journal managing
editor who will run News Corp's publishing unit as CEO after it
is spun off.
The fact that AllThingsD's contract is up this year is well
known, and the sources said the website is receiving a lot of
"inbound interest" from potential buyers parallel to its talks
with News Corp.
Among the names mentioned by one of the sources as having
reached out to AllThingsD was Conde Nast, where Swisher recently
agreed to work as a contributing writer for Vanity Fair, and
The sources also speculated that former Yahoo and
News Corp executive Ross Levinsohn might be looking at the
website given his new role as Chief Executive of Guggenheim
Digital Media, which according to the press release announcing
his hiring, comes complete with "significant capital to acquire
and invest in new media companies." The private equity shop
already owns Billboard, Hollywood Reporter, and Adweek.
AllThingsD has reported that AOL expressed interest in
acquiring it in the past, but said those talks "were preliminary
Calls to AllThingsD were referred to a News Corp
representative who declined comment. A Conde Nast representative
declined comment. Calls to Hearst were not immediately returned.
Calls and emails to Ross Levinsohn were not returned.
While AllThingsD is recognized as the brainchild of Swisher
and Mossberg, News Corp actually owns the website and its name.
However, according to provisions in their contract, Swisher and
Mossberg have approval authority over any sale, one of the
Technically, News Corp could retain the AllThingsD's name in
the event of a sale, forcing Swisher and Mossberg to start a new
venture under a different brand name. But historically in these
types of situations a deal is usually worked out to allow the
founders to take the company name with them as part of a
The sources described the website and conference business
combined as profitable. AllThingsD was first launched as a
conference, "D: All Things Digital" in 2003, and a website
It has grown into a technology industry must-read, and
features the conference division known for snagging A-list
corporate executives for interview sessions. Apple's
Steve Jobs, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Microsoft
founder Bill Gates, and virtually every other major
technology executive has spoken at the D Conference.
Earlier this week, AllThingsD's well-regarded media writer,
Peter Kafka, led a media-centric conference for the website that
included panels with Intel's Erik Huggers, Live Nation
CEO Michael Rapino, and Netflix's programming
boss Ted Sarandos, among others.
The website has two more conferences on the agenda for this
year: a mobile one that was postponed until April due to
Hurricane Sandy, and the main D Conference in May.
The sources described the relationship between News Corp and
AllThingsD as amicable but stressed.
"Like all partnerships, there could be more cooperation
between the two," said one of the sources. "There is tension
between AllThingsD and the Wall Street Journal, for example."
As a result of management changes, over the last few years
the website has reported to numerous Wall Street Journal and
News Corp executives, among them Gordon Crovitz, Les Hinton, and
now Lex Fenwick and Robert Thomson.
Should the two sides reach a deal on a new contract,
AllThingsD would be included as part of the publishing unit in
the News Corp split, one of the sources said.