Mr. Finkelstein acknowledged that he and Mr. Trump had known each other socially for decades, adding that he’s friendly with Democrats, too. And he defended The Hill, saying independent studies determined that readers think the publication is “balanced and nonpartisan.”
Dan Wakeford, a former top editor of People Magazine, will oversee the newsroom. Mr. Wakeford has hired Marty Kady, a longtime senior editor at Politico, to be The Messenger’s politics editor, and Mary Margaret, a former top editor of Entertainment Weekly, to direct entertainment coverage.
Mr. Wakeford said The Messenger would explore many sides of an issue — “polyperspectivity,” he said — and wouldn’t ignore any perspectives or opinions.
Mr. Finkelstein’s backers include Josh Harris, co-founder of the private-equity giant Apollo; James Tisch, chief executive of the financial conglomerate Loews; and Thomas Peterffy, founder and chairman of the trading platform Interactive Brokers. Mr. Harris owned the majority of The Hill, according to two people familiar with the matter.
The Messenger will be starting during a difficult ad market. Media companies like The Washington Post, News Corp and Vox Media have all cut staff in the last year, some citing a fall in advertising revenue.
Richard Beckman, a former president of The Hill and Condé Nast who will be The Messenger’s president, said in an interview that the company planned to generate more than $100 million in revenue next year, primarily through advertising and events, with profitability expected that year.
To build its digital audience, the company has hired Neetzan Zimmerman, who has been a digital traffic maven at The Hill and Gawker Media, and is expecting more than 100 million monthly readers — an ambitious goal that would make it one of the most-read digital publications in the United States.