They’ve got money. They don’t have publishing experience.
Who wants to buy a big, famous magazine publisher that’s struggling to adapt to the digital world?
These guys, who offered $1.8 billion for Time Inc:
- Len Blavatnik, an investor whose portfolio includes chemical companies, real estate and, more recently, entertainment companies including Warner Music Group.
- Edgar Bronfman Jr., who turned his family’s ownership of the Seagram Company into music and movie investments. He owned Warner Music before selling it to Blavatnik in 2011.
- Ynon Kreiz, an entertainment executive and investor who most recently took control of Maker Studios, and then sold the web video company to Disney in what ultimately turned out to be a $670 million transaction.
One thing all three men have in common: None of them have any experience running a magazine company.
As the New York Post reported late last night, the trio approached Time Inc about buying the company for $18 a share, a 30 percent premium to the company’s closing price. The report has boosted Time shares this morning by 20 percent, to $16.
A person familiar with the deal says Time Inc. rejected the proposal, which has been in the works for months, a couple of weeks ago.
Earlier this fall Time Inc. swapped out CEOs, replacing Joe Ripp, who had run the company since it split with Time Warner, and then went public, with Rich Batista, a former tv executive who joined Time in 2015.
It’s unclear what Blavatnik, Bronfman Jr. and Kreiz think they could do that Time’s past and present managers haven’t done.
Everyone agrees that Time, whose portfolio includes iconic titles like Time, Sports Illustrated and People, needs to transform itself from a print company to a digital company. But every traditional publisher says that.
Presumably the trio thinks their money and experience in entertainment — and particularly Kreiz’s knowledge of the TV and video landscape — can help accelerate that push.
And depending on Blavatnik’s appetite for investment, they may be able to acquire or merge with larger digital properties — something Time Inc. hasn’t had the ability to do so far.