Splitsville: Brill, Primedia

After Steve Brill failed to secure a cash infusion for Brill Media Ventures or to find investors (including Quadrangle Group’s Steve Rattner) to finance a buyout of Primedia’s Media Central group, publisher of the Web site Inside.com and Brill’s Content magazine, Brill and Primedia called the whole partnership off Monday.

Ending a short-lived and complicated relationship, Primedia is buying Inside.com, and Brill’s Content is closing– moves displacing 38 employees.

Primedia will continue Media Central, publisher of Folio and Cable World magazines, plus databases and newsletters.

“There is no point in outlining the issues that developed between my Brill Media partners and me on one hand and Primedia on the other,” Brill said in a memo to staff. There had been reports of friction with Primedia CEO Tom Rogers. “But I can tell, you, and Tom Rogers will agree, that they never had anything to do with the performance of Inside or the magazine.” Instead, he said, the “immediate cause” of Brill’s Content closing and Inside.com downsizing “is the unwinding of our partnership.”

With the suspension of Brill’s Content, the 3-year-old 250,000-circulation media watchdog quarterly, Inside.com will rely on Media Central to supply its content.

Brill said he will stay on to lead Media Central until the end of the year to ensure a smooth transition.

The writing had been on the wall recently–especially after Inside.com founders Michael Hirschorn left for VH1 and Kurt Anderson last week went to consult for USA Entertainment. Brill shut his online subscription site Contentville late last month.

The alliance began last January when Rogers called on Brill, a friend, to lead a new subsidiary based on Primedia’s media trade properties. The company, Media Central, took a 49 percent stake in what was then Brill Media Holdings, mainly Brill’s Content, and Brill received an undisclosed, but smaller, Media Central stake. In April, Brill added Inside.com to Media Central’s stable. Though the site broke stories, it never became profitable as a subscription-driven operation, with a pay-per-view option, even after transforming into a Media Central portal.

Meanwhile, Primedia is trying to digest the scores of titles it acquired last summer from Emap and to shed Emap’s bullet books, led by Guns and Ammo. Last week, in a move that cut 20 jobs, Primedia consolidated its Youth Entertainment Group magazines — Teen Beat, Tiger Beat, Bop and 16 — under the former Emap title Teen.

Primedia shares were up 5 cents to $2.06 Monday afternoon but well off their 52-week high of $16.50.

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