By Mary Milliken
(Reuters) - Nate Silver, the statistician who earned star status by correctly predicting the 2012 U.S. presidential election in all 50 states, said on Monday he is moving his popular FiveThirtyEight blog to sports media company ESPN from the New York Times.
Disney-owned ESPN said it is buying the URL www.fivethirtyeight.com and the trade name for an undisclosed sum. The relaunched site will encompass not only sports, but also politics and elections, economics and weather among other subjects. Content will be shared with ABC News, also owned by Disney.
Silver, who will be editor-in-chief of FiveThirtyEight, said he is inspired by the success and the model of Grantland.com, a site launched by ESPN in 2011 and run by the sports commentator "Sports Guy" Bill Simmons.
"Grantland is close to the vision," Silver told reporters, adding that tapping Grantland's expertise "will save me headaches through the next few months."
ESPN said it expected to launch the new site in a matter of months, while declining to be more specific. Silver will be hiring a team of writers, analysts and statisticians but would not say how many people would work at FiveThirtyEight.
"Politics remains at the core of what he does, so politics is going to be important there," ESPN President John Skipper told reporters, adding that ABC News will provide a platform for Silver in election years.
Silver, 35, got his start in sports, doing statistics-based analysis of Major League Baseball, which has gained a large following among younger baseball fans. He started his FiveThirtyEight site in 2008, correctly predicting the results of the presidential election that year in 49 of 50 states. In 2010, he moved it to the NYTimes.com domain.
On Monday, Silver would not elaborate on why he is leaving the New York Times or any discussions with the newspaper. He said he "had plenty of support."
New York Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy said in an email: "We valued our partnership with Nate, particularly during the 2012 election campaign, and we wish him every success in the future." She declined to comment further.
New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan wrote in a post on Monday that Silver's star power was "significant" and "his ability to drive traffic - especially among young, non-newspaper readers with his FiveThirtyEight blog - was unmatched."
But she said that Silver probably never fit into the Times culture because he "disrupted the traditional model of how to cover politics."
Silver responded to questions over Sullivan's assertions by saying "these cultural issues are getting more play than is appropriate."
(Editing by Eric Kelsey and Ken Wills)