SOURCE: The New York Times
After Fetching a High Price, Time Magazine Moves Into a New Era
When Time magazine started in 1923, it hit upon a popular formula: short, punchy items that aggregated the week’s events and came in an entertaining package. But the newsweekly could never compete with the digital version of its own blueprint: the internet’s bloggers, explainers, listicles and 30-second videos.
Time’s sales and profits, like those of most print publications, have been shrinking every year, a situation that made it difficult to sell the magazine, even with its storied past.
In March, Meredith, which agreed to buy Time Inc. in November, announced that it would put Time magazine up for sale, along with Sports Illustrated, Fortune and Money. After nearly six months, Time found its new owners when the software titan Marc Benioff and his wife, Lynne, agreed to pay $190 million in cash for the magazine. Mr. Benioff said he had “always loved it” in a text message interview with The New York Times.
The auction was more complex than Meredith executives had expected. The Des Moines-based publisher specializes in titles focused on home and lifestyle topics, and its advertising business is not designed for news and sports publications. Selling the four publications had always been the plan.
Alan Murray, the chief content officer of the former Time Inc. brands, who helped lead the process, and Meredith’s banking adviser, Citigroup, placed potential bidders into tiered groups. The groups were based on several factors, including the ability to pay and the level of seriousness. Meredith considered selling all the titles together but soon settled on individual transactions. Money will most likely be bundled with Fortune when it is sold.
“It was a learning process for me, and these things just take a lot longer than you think they would,” Mr. Murray said.
Marc Benioff does things his own way: “I didn’t realize two weeks ago I was going to buy Time.”
Sports Illustrated, Fortune and Money should be sold by the end of the year, he said. “There are very healthy, advanced conversations going on,” he added, though he declined to comment on specific suitors. “I’m optimistic.”
Meredith fended off a $325 million offer for Time from David J. Pecker, the media executive who has become a key witness in a federal investigation into President Trump. During the presidential campaign, Mr. Pecker, who publishes The National Enquirer, suppressed the story of a former Playboy model who claimed to have had an affair with Mr. Trump, according to federal prosecutors.
Until a few weeks ago, Mr. Benioff was nearing an agreement to acquire Fortune and Money, according to four people familiar with the sales process who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private talks. He switched his preference to Time when he decided its business was stronger, one of the people said.
Reed Phillips, a longtime investment banker specializing in media transactions, said the purchase price was surprisingly high.
“For a business in decline, that’s a big number,” he said. “It seems that when billionaires buy media assets, it’s almost like they’re making a nonprofit donation. They’re not doing this as a moneymaker. This is more of a cause.”