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WHAT WE MAY NOT BE HEARING FROM PUCK NEWS BECAUSE OF A CONFLICT OF INTEREST was founded upon two principles that Matthew Belloni (and likely all the other journalists) cited in his decision to join. Journalist-owned and independence “to 100% serve our audience, not sponsors”. (

Less than three years later, Puck is a powerhouse media news organization populated by a murderer’s row of no less than seventeen top-notch reporters with rolodexes that rival (and beat) just about every other competing online news/podcast site. By extension, they have positioned themselves as an uncompromising and authoritative story-breaking group of insiders and it is this combination that has attracted tens of thousands of loyal subscribers who generate millions and millions of revenue for Puck …a number that will only continue to grow.

Seems cut and dry. Puck is what it says it is and what we think it is. Yes? Maybe? Just as with everything in life (and in entertainment news reporting in general), there are competing shades of gray and in the case of Puck, there are two shades. TPG and STANDARD INDUSTRIES (via one of their companies 40 NORTH MEDIA). These two shades of gray put up the $7 million in seed money that birthed Puck in 2021. On a side note: TPG also participated in the second round of additional funds raising not too long ago.

What does all of this mean? Why should anyone care? Let’s flesh out the shades first.

Shade #1: TPG is a large multi-billion dollar publicly traded investment company that lists as active entertainment related business investments on their website: CAA (along with one of CAA’s investment arms, Evolution Media Capital…though, it’s unclear why both are ‘active’ investments if TPG sold its stake in CAA to the French company Artemis in the Fall 2023). VICE-MEDIA. STX (until April 2022). AZOFF MUSIC. CINESPACE STUDIOS. DIRECT TV. SLING. SPOTIFY. WINDRVR. On a related note: TPG’s co-founder, Jim Coulter, sits on Puck’s board of directors.

Shade #2: STANDARD INDUSTRIES is also a multi-billion-dollar investment vehicle that owns a lot of sub vehicles, one of which is 40 NORTH MEDIA which owns a globally influential marketing/advertising arm with several heavy hitter entertainment business clients : ROKU PARAMOUNT PLUTO TWITCH. AMAZON UNIVERSAL MUSIC LATIN ENTERTAINMENT. JLO. THE KARDASHIANS. On a fascinating note: 40 NORTH MEDIA which, interestingly enough, accepts Crypto. We are still trying to get our head around cryptocurrency as a concept.

Between these two investment behemoths, it’s evident that TPG and STANDARD INDUSTRIES have tentacles that run vast and run deep in the world of everything…so vast and so deep that it raises interesting questions about one of the key principles upon which Puck was built and, by extension, the brand it has curated. Call it that fine line where reality and perception get murky sometimes.

The tenet in particular that deserves analysis is one that Matthew Belloni experienced when he butted heads with the company that owns the Hollywood Reporter and left to join a media startup called Puck that 100% served its audience and not sponsors. This mattered because the rumor was that MRC was nixing stories in instances where it might negatively impact whatever relationship or otherwise that the company had with someone…and that was frustrating according to a Deadline article (

In the case of Puck, perhaps they aren’t catering to sponsors, BUT is their independent streak and ‘story breaking’ reputation perhaps affected by entities that are much more influential than sponsors…like Puck’s investors?

Example: In a profile of a Puck journalist, cited some stories that the journalist had ‘broken’ ahead of the rest of the entertainment journalists. One of them (a big scoop) was that TPG would sell its interest in CAA to the French company Artemis in late summer 2023. What’s interesting though is that, during this time, the cofounder of TPG was privy to information concerning the deal AND he was also on the Puck board of directors. Granted, the Puck journalist included a disclaimer that TPG was an investor in Puck and that no information could be extracted from anyone at TPG…and we’ll give this the benefit of the doubt. BUT, it does raise an interesting ‘Woodward and Bernstein’ versus ‘Richard Nixon’ debate. Could someone perceive the timing of the release of the TPG sale scoop as in any way influenced by something connected to TPG? The old ‘what did Puck know and when did they know it?” We honestly don’t know how the sausage was made on this one…but, again, content and timing are fascinating mechanisms to study.

And revisiting the Hollywood Reporter dilemma that many reporters likely faced if the rumors were true with respect to the quashing of stories…the perception of a potentially similar problem at Puck is worth assessing as a ‘what if?’

Example: Vice-Media. TPG is a significant financial player in Vice. Not Deadline has been looking for not yet found articles on (it will keep looking and admit its oversight when found) that do the deep dive uncovering of important storylines that have gone on for years. The rise and fall of a once powerful online news site that branched into television and film and all sorts of ancillary media. They had a highly controversial CEO whose personal and professional missteps compromised the company’s ability to establish the sort of reputation that Puck and Deadline have. Vice also has consistent money problems. Content problems. Investment issues. Significant gutting of employee numbers issues. They have been a case study of anything and everything that can go wrong. Could this be perceived as something different than the reality? The New York Times even broke a great story about Vice’s attempt to go public in order to keep alive the hope that TPG and other investors could get their money back. We want to see someone at doing the deepest dive of all and getting inside the belly of the beast. Surely, there is still some meat on that bone.

And what about TPG’s investment in Azoff Music? Irving Azoff is one of the more, if not the most, powerful players in the music business. He is fearless. He is uncompromising and he stirs up controversy wherever he goes because he has goals and achieves them. No middle ground. He’s a ‘must read’ for anyone interested in a dynamic personality who makes anything happen…and yet, there doesn’t seem to be much controversy to read about him in Puck. Maybe, we aren’t looking hard enough? Maybe the journalists don’t deem Azoff newsworthy enough to justify meaningful coverage? Maybe, he’s not as ripe for bashing as Shari Redstone at Paramount? Who knows? We’ll keep searching for articles on the subject and will provide an update possibly before next Tuesday’s article. Either way, this is all just food for thought. Perception can sometimes invade reality.

At yet another end of things where it’s hard to figure out why someone is willing to die on a hill, in June, alone, why have there been daily, countless articles written about Paramount and Skydance where Shari Redstone gets bashed at most of the turns? The story is simple. Shari trapped herself into a corner (that she wouldn’t…or couldn’t afford to come out of) when she retained too much voting power with (only 20% of the stock) to give a crap about everyone else who owned at least 80% of the shares of stock. Skydance wisely preyed on this wrinkle and enticed her with an offer and revised offer that she had to refuse regardless of her wanting to accept because she would have been sued into oblivion in a class action lawsuit and would have likely been handed her shirt. All the other stuff in between is empty calories. Maybe, the readers want the blow by blow, but if so, hasn’t Skydance made missteps worthy of mention? Why did they keep pressing for a deal that they had to suspect could not come together within the framework they chose? Did they have a different game in mind as things started to unravel? We don’t know. We might never know.

And what about AMAZON (an important client of Standard Industries via 40 North Media)? There is a fascinating, dysfunctional dynamic going on over there from the top down. Jennifer Salke is assigned more and more divisions even though her bread and butter is one division—television. The film division suffers greatly. Even the television programming is spotty at best. And the people hired below her in certain important areas are simply not qualified to shape the future. We understand that relationships usually trump experience, but this is not just some small or medium or large distributor. This is a global powerhouse…which begs the question: why isn’t Amazon taking a page out of Apple’s book and putting people with decades of leadership experience in specific arenas into those specific arenas with some semblance of independence? Want to read a hard-hitting piece about this? Kim Masters wrote one for the Hollywood Reporter in April 2023 about Amazon’s short-sighted executive hierarchy of hires. It’s great. As for Puck, it served up something not necessarily hard hitting along with some advice in an article covering Salke in July 2023. That’s sort of a bummer. Why not do a more critical dive? But, this is just food for thought. Perception can muck up the reality.

Anyways, this could go on and on, but if Puck truly wants to significantly reduce the ‘perception problem’, they should make an arrangement with TPG and STANDARD INDUSTRIES and the latest investor J ROTHSCHILD CAPITAL MANAGEMENT (if it, too, owns or is an investor in certain entities that raise a red flag) that allows the journalists to bring on a brand new single third party investor who buys out the current investors and isn’t perceived  (rightly or wrongly) as being concerned about valuations or other corporate interests or anything other than the story behind the story. This way, everyone gets what they want. Granted, finding these sorts of investors is akin to discovering a unicorn…but, hey…it’s worth a shot. What do they have to lose?

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