The Forbes family has found a buyer for its globally recognized business journalism brand, ceding control of the media company it has owned and built for nearly a century.
Forbes Inc. announced a deal on Friday to sell a majority stake to a new Hong Kong-based investor group, Integrated Whale Media Investments (IWM). Neither the price nor the portion of the company to be sold were disclosed, though the Forbes family retains a “significant” stake, according to a statement from the company.
Forbes Inc. publishes magazines such as Forbes, Forbes Asia and ForbesLife, and is widely known for its rankings of the world’s richest people.
For the time being, Forbes Media’s leadership remains in place with family scion Steve Forbes staying on as chairman and editor-in-chief. President and CEO Mike Perlis will still “lead the company’s management team.” But the sale is intended to “provide capital, as well as financial and operational expertise,” and to extend Forbes’s global reach, the company’s statement says.
The Forbes magazines, founded in 1917 by Hearst papers columnist B.C. Forbes and his partner Walter Drey, grew to be a powerful voice in business and a brand that is synonymous with wealth and influence. The company’s statement says it is profitable, and the main Forbes magazine still boasts a weekly print circulation of more than 930,000 copies. Forbes Media’s properties also attract 26.3 million monthly unique visitors online, but the group had faced financial pressures as it coped with declining print advertising revenue.
Part-owner Elevation Partners, which was co-founded by Bono of the rock group U2, “will fully exit its investment” as part of the deal, Forbes said. Elevation bought a 45 per cent stake in Forbes for $240-million in 2006.
The family put a for-sale sign on its empire last November, when reports suggested they were seeking as much as $400-million in a sale – the same sum they rejected when Condé Nast Publications Inc. made an offer a decade ago. The bidding process was drawn out, but whatever the sum, Forbes found its buyer in IWM, which is led by Integrated Asset Management (Asia) Limited, founded Tak Cheung Yam.
“Together with the Forbes family and the management team, along with the appropriate strategic and financial support, we will find new ways to unlock the value of the Forbes brand,” Mr. Yam said.
In a blog post, Steve Forbes called the sale “a momentous occasion for the Forbes family,” but hinted it was necessary since “The web has blasted away the operating model for the communications industry.”
“This state of flux has been harrowing for legacy companies,” Mr. Forbes wrote. “The ‘creative destruction’ wrought by the Internet, moreover, is just beginning.”
The Forbes’s are not the only American publishing family to give up control of late. Last year, the Graham family also sold The Washington Post, which had been in the family since 1933, to Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos for $250-million.
Deutsche Bank AG was hired as an advisor to broker the Forbes deal, which is expected to close this year.