How Scared Should Businessweek's Staff Be?S

Most of the serious bidders for Businessweek have dropped away, leaving Bloomberg as the leading candidate. We know BW's not exactly a fountain of profit these days. But would Bloomberg really gut the magazine's entire staff?

WWD says so today:

Some describe the atmosphere inside of the magazine's offices as business as usual, while others are more resigned and have begun packing up their things. Bloomberg LP remains the front-runner, although the company is expected to only take on the BusinessWeek name and Web site, and none of its staff or bureaus.

Jesus, that's pretty harsh. WWD goes on to say that Bloomberg would essentially toss BW's magazine staff out and replace it with current Bloomberg employees, and the only real sticking point left is who'll pay the severance for all the BW layoffs.

But another informed source we spoke to called WWD's version "nuts." The bidders on Businessweek have only had a chance to do very preliminary assessments of the company's staff, and final decisions on layoffs would come only after a winner had been declared and allowed to do more exploration of the company's direction. But the winning bidder would have a commitment to keeping BW in operation as a print magazine (and a decent one), our source said—otherwise, why bid on the company at all? That would mean, at the very least, not coming in and gutting the company's editorial side immediately.

So, Businessweek employees: You should certainly be living in fear. But maybe not total fear. A Bloomberg purchase of BW would probably not result in immediate mass layoffs of most BW staffers, to be replaced by Bloomberg's own current employees. Although some of that could certainly happen! On the other hand, current BW staffers could then have a chance to jump over to Bloomberg—one of the few major media companies not currently mired in mass budget cuts.

Logic seems to dictate that there will be layoffs once Businessweek is sold. After all, the place isn't doing too well with its current staffing levels. The question is how many. A buyer like Bloomberg that could afford to spare a few resources would presumably be a bit better for the BW staff than a buyer intent on slashing right away—which could mean a drastic reduction in frequency for the magazine and a skeleton staff. We'll see!

But if you work at Businessweek and you get an outside job offer soon, you might wanna take it.