Cablevision boss Jim Dolan has created such a PR trainwreck around his supposed acquisition of blog network Gothamist it's hard to imagine the deal ever closing. Dolan's bullying of a journalist may have already killed the shaky-looking deal.
We were hearing rumors the deal was off a couple of weeks ago. Since then Dolan has gone on the warpath against the Village Voice over a blog joke about the deal written by Foster Kamer, Gawker's former weekend editor. After yanking ads for his Madison Square Garden and "Independent" Film Channel—and after inundating the paper with phone calls from his staff—Dolan really put the squeeze on the paper after he got his friends at Live Nation to pull their Voice ads, too.
Clearly, if Dolan wanted to buy Gothamist (or simply cozy up to the startup), or acquire any online media property in the future, he'd do himself a favor by not reminding everyone that he has a reputation for trying to turn the media, including the newspaper he owns, into craven supporters of his business interests—especially his Knicks sports team—and for punishing those who dare to criticize him. (See the links here for more information, and also this from our archive.) Going nuclear on the Voice over a silly joke just reminds everyone that Dolan would likely be just as interventionist with Gothamist as he has with his own newspaper—and at least as belligerent with his new staffers as he is with reporters who don't work for him.
Gothamist co-owner Jake Dobkin may not have to worry about Dolan interfering in day-to-day business: We've been told that the Cablevision-Gothamist deal is dead. Maybe that's true, or maybe, as Ortega has heard, it is still "pending." Either way, and whatever the cause, James Dolan's public temper tantrum over the past two weeks did the transaction no favors. (Dobkin had to be cringing during the episode, especially since he's reportedly been looking to unload the site for some time.) It left Dolan looking like a guy who is far happier on the warpath with his enemies than closing deals for his company. And it left Dobkin hanging in the wind. Given Dolan's track record, though, that might be for the best.
Update: In response to an earlier Gawker inquiry, Dobkin told us,
"We've got no comment about any of these rumors, except to say that Gothamist is doing great. Last month was our best month ever for traffic and ad-sales. This year we're focusing on building up our sales
team through new hires, expanding our editorial staff in our existing cities, and continuing to produce great local content."