A deal in the works for Rogers Communications Inc. to sell most of its magazines to the publisher of The Hockey News has fallen apart at the last minute.
The Toronto-based telecommunications and media company is still seeking a buyer for the magazines, according to sources familiar with the process. The Globe and Mail first reported in August that Rogers put eight print and digital titles on the block – Maclean’s, Canadian Business, MoneySense, Today’s Parent, Hello! Canada, Flare and Chatelaine’s French and English editions – along with its custom-content group, which produces marketing content such as in-house magazines for various companies. Rogers hired the investment-banking arm of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce to manage the sale.
Roustan Media Ltd., owned by Graeme Roustan, emerged as the lead bidder and entered exclusive negotiations with Rogers, sources with knowledge of the discussions say. Mr. Roustan purchased sports magazine The Hockey News from Quebecor Inc.’s Groupe TVA earlier this year. The deal that fell through with Rogers was for all the magazines for sale except MoneySense, sources say. (Hello! Canada, which is part of the sale, is a brand not owned by Rogers, but is published under an agreement with a Spanish publishing company.)
Rogers had scheduled a town hall meeting Tuesday afternoon to inform employees the company signed a deal to sell the seven titles to Mr. Roustan’s company. Late last week, however, Rogers requested a delay in closing the sale, expressing a desire to examine other potential offers. Mr. Roustan withdrew from the process at that point, sources said.
It is not clear what other potential buyers there might be for the magazine assets, or whether another offer has come forward.
Mr. Roustan declined to comment for this story. Rogers spokesperson Andrea Goldstein said, “We do not comment on mergers and acquisitions.”
Rogers also operates digital publishing brands related to its broadcast operations, including CityNews and Sportsnet, which are not part of the sale.
Like many media companies, Rogers shifted its media division’s strategy in recent years in response to major changes in advertising spending and in people’s reading and TV watching habits. Rogers has focused on sports – not only because games still draw live viewers that advertisers will pay for, but also because it needs to see a return from its $5.2-billion, 12-year deal for National Hockey League broadcast rights in Canada. Rogers also owns the Toronto Blue Jays.
The company’s publishing division faces significant challenges: Magazines and newspapers have grappled with declining print advertising revenues for years, and digital media account for more than half of the $13.7-billion in advertising spending in Canada, according to media buying firm GroupM. But much of that digital market is dominated by larger digital companies such as Facebook, Google and Amazon. For that reason, many publications are focusing on selling digital subscriptions, reversing a trend that dominated the earlier years of the internet to offer online content for free.
In June, Rogers cut back its publishing division, laying off roughly one-third of its staff, or 75 full-time employees. The company said the move was intended to keep the business “sustainable.” In 2016, Rogers overhauled its magazine business, announcing it would sell some French-language titles and trade publications, while Canadian Business, Flare, MoneySense and Sportsnet magazines would no longer produce printed issues but continue to publish content online. At the same time, Rogers announced a reduction in the print schedules of Maclean’s, Chatelaine and Today’s Parent.
According to information provided to potential buyers in the summer, Rogers’s printed titles for sale had $12-million in print advertising revenue combined in 2017, and $16.5-million in print subscription and newsstand sales. All the magazines for sale drew $9.5-million in digital advertising and $600,000 in digital subscriptions.