The Global Media Weekly for executives and entrepreneurs

Forbes in sale talks (again)

Business magazine publisher Forbes has entered into “exclusive negotiations” with an investor consortium for the sale of the company. The news comes five months after Forbes’ abortive deal to IPO in the US through a SPAC.

The consortium is said to comprise “family offices and global investors”, Forbes said. But no value has been reported.

Forbes publishes the eponymous flagship magazine which is claimed to reach an audience of 5m. Its total print and digital footprint is said to be as high as 140m, with its 49 global editions. 

Integrated Whale Media (IWM), of Hong Kong, had purchased 51% of Forbes Media Holdings from the Forbes family and venture capital firm Elevation Partners at a $475m valuation in 2014. Since then, IWM has made repeated attempts to sell its stake.

Forbes was founded by Bertie Charles Forbes, a Hearst newspaper columnist, in 1917. It is best known for its billionaires list, and its data is licensed by economists studying wealth trends. In recent years, most of the revenue of the magazine – which publishes eight print issues a year and has 49 licensed editions around the world – has come from its website and events including its 30 Under 30 conferences, which had been disrupted by the pandemic.

The 105-year-old magazine reported a $38m net profit for 2021 but the fourth quarter revenue of $94m was reportedly 51% ahead of the corresponding period of 2020. In February, the cryptocurrency exchange Binance – which had aimed to help build Forbes’s coverage of digital assets – had announced a $200m investment in the proposed Forbes SPAC deal.

Before this week’s announcement, it had been assumed that the Forbes majority owner would return to its former plans for a (lower price) trade sale than the $800m valuation it had once been seeking. It will be interesting to see whether the eventual price of any deal exceeds the c$630m rejected as part of the proposed SPAC deal this year.

In 2018, the former Time Inc-owned Fortune magazine – one of Forbes’s longtime rivals – was sold to the Thailand-based Chatchaval Jiaravanon for $150m.