Quick read. Eight months after its acquisition of Time Inc., Meredith Corp is selling Time Magazine to Salesforce founder Marc Benioff and his wife Lynne – for $190m. The Benioffs are buying it personally (not through Salesforce) and say they won’t play a role in daily operations or editorial decisions.
The sale process for Time and the other three magazines (Fortune, Sports, Illustrated and Money) still being negotiated, has been much more protracted than Meredith had forecast but the price of this first deal may be almost double what had been expected.
The legendary news magazine reportedly had $173m revenue and $33m of EBITDA profit in 2017. This profit figure is believed to have been ‘adjusted’ to include large-scale reduction in costs including some traditionally high central overheads, before and since the Meredith acquisition. It’s been a timely turn-round. Eight months ago, brokers forecast that Time might be sold for $100m and that Fortune and Sports Illustrated might together reach a further $300m.
This sale (like the whole Time Inc acquisition) is, therefore, likely to burnish Meredith’s reputation for smart deals. It will be interesting to see whether the Time magazine price proves to be the best of the pack – depending, presumably, on whether Meredith can snag another digital billionaire or two.
The other former Time Inc magazines are expected to be sold by the end of 2018. The billion dollar question is whether – after Jeff Bezos (Washington Post), Alibaba’s Jack Ma (South China Morning Post), Laurene Powell Jobs (The Atlantic), and Marc Benioff – the likes of Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer or Larry Page will be seeking their legacies in legacy media. Motivational speaker Tony Robbins and Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert are said to be interested in buying Fortune, Money and/ or Sports Illustrated. (And, waiting in the wings for gilded buyers and/or investors is the Wasserstein-owned New York magazine.)
Whatever Marc Benioff does with Time magazine, this latest tech billionaire to invest (philanthropically?) in traditional media will not be the last. There will, surely, be many more “mediaires”. Nothing drives the sale of toys like fashion.