After 15 years of intense jockeying, sprinting and occasional spills, Gold Derby has finally reached an impressive finish line – we’ve been acquired by Penske Media Corporation. That’s the equivalent to winning the Kentucky Derby. Or, better, it’s like winning the Oscar.
PMC is tops among Hollywood media with such thoroughbreds in its stables as Deadline Hollywood, Variety, TVLine, Hollywood Life, WWD and other prestigious brands. Now Gold Derby not only gets to ride alongside them, but we’ll team up to blaze creative new paths ahead as I continue as editor-in-chief and president and our editorial and tech staffs join me at the new Gold Derby Media LLC.
Here’s the official press release that explains further.
I’d like to thank PMC Chairman and CEO Jay Penske and his team not only for placing a wager on us at trackside, but for being so encouraging along the way. They’re the real deal among entrepreneurs: EVP George Grobar, Vice Chairman Gerry Byrne, EVP Paul Woolnough, VP Ken DelAlcazar, General Counsel Todd Greene, Deadline publisher Stacey Farish and others. Over the past few years they were ever gracious and encouraging every time I knocked on their door to give them the latest updates on Gold Derby’s progress, Ultimately, when it became apparent that Gold Derby had grown into a nifty new website, the PMC team wasted no time in drawing up a deal.
PMC is the perfect home for Gold Derby for lots of reasons, but one is special: it owns Variety, the publication that inspired the name of my website. To explain, let’s revisit how we got here.
It was back in 1989 that I had the eureka moment that has defined my career ever since. As I stood in the dusty aisles of the creaky old Coliseum Bookstore at 57th Street and Broadway in New York while buying a copy of “Inside Oscar” (Ballantine Books), I couldn’t find equivalent books on the Emmys, Grammys, Golden Globes, etc. As a professional journalist looking for my next gig, I immediately recognized this as a thrilling opportunity.
“Wow,” I thought. “We’re such a nation of Oscar snobs that nobody ever bothered to write books on any of these other awards!”
I quickly dove into doing the requisite research full time and started hustling to get book contracts. Eventually, I struck a deal with Penguin/Putnam to do Variety’s books “Movie Awards,” “The Emmys” and “The Grammys.” When the books came out in the 1990s, I teamed up with E! Entertainment Network to help roll out their red-carpet Oscars/ Emmys/ Globes pre-shows. Meantime, I was also appearing on “Entertainment Tonight,” CNN and “Good Morning America,” writing for Reader’s Digest, TV Guide and the New York Times and getting quoted by most major media. Suddenly, I emerged as America’s original awards expert – the first and only journalist to devote his career to the study of all major showbiz awards.
But, lo, as the 1990s progressed, this crazy new thing called the Internet kept getting bigger and it was clear that I needed to launch my own site, but what should it be? In 1999, I created a live chat room that attracted fellow award nuts, but that wasn’t enough. My pal, “Entertainment Tonight” producer Brad Bessey, ended up giving me the core idea, which was based upon a TV segment we did every year when I gathered up top journalists to predict the Emmys.
“That’s who you’ve become, Tom,” Brad said. “The expert’s expert. Now you need to take that thing you do for the Emmys, do it for other awards, too, and put it all on the web.”
Bingo! Thank you, Brad. Yes, of course, that was the logical next step. But I needed a website name. What to call it? The perfect answer came to me as I recalled researching my book “Movie Awards.” Now and then back in the 1940s and 1950s, Variety’s writers would occasionally track the Oscars like a real horse race, noting that the “derby” was suddenly heating up as “A Place in the Sun” pulled ahead of “A Streetcar Named Desire” in the Best Picture race of 1951 and – hold your horses, everybody! – we need to worry about that sneaky dark horse “An American in Paris” (which ended up pulling off the upset).
Employing the derby metaphor wasn’t consistent. Variety would drop it for a few years and then it might pop up again several years later. By the 1960s and 1970s, it was seldom used if at all, but it lingered in my memory as the perfect word – odd but familiar, full of action – for my new website. Perfect, that is, if I put the word “gold” in front of “derby,” since that’s what all Hollywood horses are chasing, after all – golden statuettes like Oscars, Golden Globes, Grammys, Emmys, etc.
I launched Gold Derby in late 2000 (the year of “Gladiator” vs. “Traffic” vs. “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”) with the predictions of Joel Siegel (Good Morning America), Jack Mathews (New York Daily News), Thelma Adams (Us Weekly), Anne Thompson (Premiere), Dave Karger (Entertainment Weekly), Andy Seiler (USA Today), Lou Lumenick (New York Post), David Germain (Associated Press) and Gene Seymour (Newsday). Pete Hammond soon joined us, too, in addition to other blazing stars of Oscarology. Back then the site was illustrated with a cartoonish racetrack and we issued odds that terrified Hollywood. Ha! Soon Gold Derby branched out to cover Grammys, Emmys, too, involving the input of more than 50 leading journos each year.
Our derby trotted along just fine until 2005 when the Los Angeles Times called one day, asking us to join their effort to help to launch their FYC franchise, The Envelope. We struck a license deal that resulted in Gold Derby and our message boards moving over to LATimes.com and we began a fun new ride. We continued to feature expert predictions, but throughout it all I was frustrated by the fact that Oscar, Emmy and Grammy fans couldn’t make picks, too.
So, in 2010, I made a bold, and rather expensive, decision. I relaunched GoldDerby as a stand-alone site with a heavy emphasis on prediction functionality. Over the past five years we’ve since worked hard to expand and refine the experience while continuing to polish up our edit coverage.
Now we’re ready for the next leg of our journey ahead. With PMC. Let’s giddyup!