With the Los Angeles Review of Books set to launch online next month, the non-profit site is embarking on an aggressive fundraising campaign to underwrite expansion – and has picked up a donation from a reader-friendly corporation.

Last week, the L.A. Review of Books secured a $25,000 grant from Internet giant Amazon.com Inc. as part of “Supporting the Writing Community,” the Seattle company’s charitable giving effort.

Tom Lutz, editor in chief of the book review and professor of creative writing at UC Riverside, said it’s a helpful boost toward the goal of raising $800,000 in the next year. Funds will go toward launching the site next month, developing products and paying writers.

“People are willing to donate a piece of writing to help you get off the ground,” Lutz said. “But they’re rightly more and more leery of writing for free on the Internet.”

He said the site is about one-quarter toward reaching its goal, with donations coming from individuals as well as corporate sponsors.

The book review site, run from a Silver Lake office, has been in soft launch since last April and is hosted on a Tumblr blogging platform. About one new book review is posted to the site every day, many entries coming from known writers such as former Los Angeles Times book columnists Richard Rayner and Susan Salter Reynolds.

Pro bono web design work for the new site has come from Venice firm Ted Perez + Associates.

Lutz said he came up with the idea for the book review in response to vanishing newspaper book review sections. Along the way, he’s been adapting the format for the web. For example, video interviews will begin to supplement text reviews next month.

He also plans to start selling advertisements and e-readers to generate revenue once the site is launched.

Newspaper Sale

L.A. Spanish-language newspaper La Opinión has new corporate ownership, an Argentine company investing in the Spanish-language media market in the United States.

In a deal announced last week, U.S. Hispanic Media Inc., a U.S. division of Buenos Aires publishing company S.A. La Nación, bought a controlling interest in La Opinion’s parent, New York’s impreMedia, for an undisclosed sum.

La Nación will put its efforts into the digital transformation of impreMedia’s newspapers, which also include El Diario La Prensa in New York. ImpreMedia estimates that about one-quarter of the Unites States’ adult Hispanic population reads its products.

La Opinión, which started out in Los Angeles in the 1920s as a newspaper for the Mexican-American community, has expanded coverage to appeal to U.S. readers from South America, Puerto Rico and other Spanish-speaking territories.

A statement from the two companies said impreMedia Chief Executive Monica Lozano will stay on as CEO and editorial operations will continue under impreMedia.

Rick Edmunds, a newspaper business analyst at the non-profit Poynter Institute in Tampa, Fla., said the move makes sense given La Nación’s strong digital presence and impreMedia’s wide reach.

“I can see them being expansionary,” he said of La Nación.

Disc Spin-off

Vivendi Entertainment, a Studio City independent film distributor, was sold last week to Gaiam Inc. of Boulder, Colo., in a deal with an initial value of $13.4 million.

The sale price will be materially larger at closing later this month, said Lloyd Greif, chief executive at investment bank Greif & Co. in downtown L.A., who represented Gaiam in the deal. The final amount will include future receivables.

The sale comes as Vivendi parent Universal Music Group in Santa Monica attempts its $1.9 billion takeover of rival EMI Group Ltd.’s recorded music division. To free up capital for the acquisition, Universal Music’s parent company, Paris’ Vivendi SA, has been selling off nonmusic assets, such as the Studio City film distributor.

Vivendi Entertainment has distribution deals with the likes of Weinstein Co. and Worldwide Wrestling Entertainment Inc.

In acquiring Vivendi’s existing contracts, Gaiam, which already has offices in New York as well as Colorado, estimates that it now has 7,000 titles in its library. The publicly traded lifestyle media company is a large seller of fitness DVDs.

The new venture is expected to be called Gaiam-Vivendi Entertainment.

Staff reporter Jonathan Polakoff can be reached at jpolakoff@labusinessjournal.com or at (323) 549-5225, ext. 226.

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