About four and a half months after buying Time Inc, magazine giant Meredith Corp. appears to be moving full-steam ahead with its plan to dump Sports Illustrated and other newly acquired titles on the highest bidder.
According to Keith J. Kelly of the New York Post, Meredith plans to sell four of its new properties in two packages: Time, Fortune and Money in one bundle (with Fortune considered the real catch) and SI on its own. Meredith reportedly hopes to take in more than $100 million for Time, Fortune and Money together and more than $150 million for SI alone.
Unsurprisingly, the ever-profitable SI Swimsuit franchise is considered a big draw, with an anonymous media dealer telling the Post that Meredith sees Swimsuit as a potential standalone brand.
Per Reilly, the four magazine properties up for sale are likely to have ample suitors but still might not fetch what the company hopes.
The four titles are expected to attract many suitors.
“But it’s not about buying a great asset that is going to give you a return on investment — it’s about influence and power,” said one source.
Still, one media dealer thinks getting a bid close to the target price will be tough.
“They can ask those prices, but is it realistic?” one source sniffed. “I think it will be a busted auction, unless some billionaire comes out of nowhere.”
The big question, of course, is who will actually pony up for Sports Illustrated. Kelly reports that it could be the type of billionaire who has snatched up “trophy newspapers” in recent years but that Amazon CEO and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos will most likely pass. Kelly floats Jay Penske of Penske Media Corp as a potential buyer of SI.
As our Andrew Bucholtz wrote back in November, SI has plenty going for it, even amid layoffs and cutbacks, and should draw substantial interest.
There also might be plenty of interested buyers. Yes, SI faces significant challenges, as we’ve seen with their layoffs and print issue cutbacks. But print’s still bringing in some money for them, and they’re an established brand with a strong digital presence, to say nothing of all their recent attempts to branch out, including an over-the-top TV channel, TV specials, selling swimsuits, selling swimsuit videos, VR documentaries and augmented reality print issues, and more.
Some other big publishers might be interested in them, including Tronc (owners of the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times and more), Gannett (owners of USA Today, The Arizona Republic, and many other newspapers), and Advance Publications (owners of Conde Nast, which includes GQ and The New Yorker, plus Sports Business Journal, a minority stake in The Sporting News, and print/online media groups like MLive.com, AL.com and NJ.com). Oh, and it’s worth remembering that the Time Inc. sale started with a takeover bid from Edgar Bronfman Jr., Len Blavatnik and Ynon Kreiz last December, and that SI was reportedly a big part of their plans. It’s conceivable part or all of that group might get involved again if it’s just SI on the table.
It seems we won’t have to wait too long to learn SI’s fate. Kelly reports that Meredith hopes to have all four titles sold in 60 to 120 days.