National Geographic Lays Off Staff Ahead of Asset Sale

As the $725 million sale of magazine and other media properties to a for-profit entity nears completion, the has announced that it is laying off 9 percent of its staff, the reports.

National Geographic Society CEO Gary Knell told the Post that the organization decided to enact a broad cost-cutting and layoff plan now rather than wait for Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox to decide who would be dismissed after the sale of assets is completed later this month. In a deal announced in September, the organization, which has been a nonprofit since its founding in 1888, is selling its magazine, book and map divisions, and other media assets to National Geographic Partners. The society will continue as an educational charity, retaining a 27 percent stake in the for-profit partnership, whose most valuable asset is the NatGeo cable TV channel, which Fox has controlled for eighteen years.

In addition to laying off about a hundred and eighty of its two thousand employees — primarily in departments and services such as legal, accounting, personnel, and technology that Fox will provide — the organization has offered buyouts to an unspecified number of staff. The society also will freeze its pension plan and eliminate medical coverage for future retirees. National Geographic spokesperson M.J. Jacobsen said the decision to undertake the layoffs was not part of the deal with Murdoch, adding, "We wanted to take care of our long-serving employees."

Knell, who joined the National Geographic Society in 2013, suggested that digital "disruption" in the media business has made the old ways of doing business unsustainable. "We've said the truck was on the tracks and the train was approaching. Only now the train is coming faster." Absent the deal with Fox, Knell added, "we were looking at millions of dollars in red ink in the future."

"." Washington Post 11/04/2015. Paul Farhi. "." Washington Post 11/03/2015.