The website TMZ may always seem to be on top of the latest celebrity news, but it failed to pull in the megabucks when parent company WarnerMedia sold it to Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Corp.
The acronym TMZ stands for “Thirty-Mile Zone,” a 30-mile area in Los Angeles used by the entertainment industry to determine compensation, rules, and working conditions for production staff, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
AT&T-owned WarnerMedia and TMZ founder Harvey Levin sold the 16-year-old site for less than $50 million, a source told The Hollywood Reporter. The terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
That is a lot less than the platform was rumored to be worth just last month. The Wall Street Journal reported that the companies were negotiating terms that would value TMZ at $100 million-to-$125 million.
Levin inked a multi-year deal with Fox and will continue to oversee day-to-day operations. In addition to all its digital brands (including TMZ.com and TooFab.com), TMZ also had a syndicated TV series, TMZ on TV, since 2007, and a spinoff series, TMZ Sports on FS1.
Fox will also operate TMZ’s tour bus businesses in Los Angeles, which offer tours of celebrity homes and Hollywood sites. Fox’s in-house syndication arm, Fox First Run, and the company announced plans to “further market and monetize the TMZ brand” across the station group; ad-supported streamer, Tubi; and other Fox-owned platforms, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Levin founded TMZ in 2005 and continues to serve as its managing editor. The site is known for delivering Hollywood gossip and scoops. It was the first to report on the deaths of Michael Jackson and Prince, and Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic rant.
TMZ also dropped the scoop about Beyonce’s sister Solange Knowles attacking brother-in-law Jay-Z in an elevator. Beyond celebrities, it reported in 2009 on Northern Trust bank spending millions of taxpayer bailout funds on lavish parties, and, via TMZSports, it prompted the $2 billion sale of NBA team the Los Angeles Clippers after it aired surveillance of a racist rant by owner Donald Sterling, BuzzFeed reported.
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TMZ’s reporting tactics have come under scrutiny. In 2020, civil rights advocacy group Color of Change started a petition to call out the site’s lack of “journalistic integrity’ when reporting Black celebrity deaths.
The petition demanded that TMZ “ensure that families have been notified” before reporting the deaths of their loved ones.
The petition was initially launched after TMZ allegedly announced Kobe Bryant’s death in a helicopter crash before his wife, Vanessa Bryant, and their family being notified by authorities, News One reported.