Coverage: Sports Illustrated sells for $110 million
Sports Illustrated magazine has been sold for $110 million to a company that specializes in managing fashion, entertainment and sports brands, including marketing rights to Shaquille O’Neal and Muhammad Ali.
Tali Arbel of the Associated Press had the news:
The seller, Meredith Corp., will continue running the print edition and the website SI.com for at least two years. Its editor and publisher are staying on, and the magazine will have editorial independence.
The deal lets Sports Illustrated grow in new areas such as esports, while Meredith can continue to “produce independent, award-winning journalism and storytelling,” Sports Illustrated Editor-in-Chief Chris Stone said in a statement.
It’s not clear what will happen after two years, though it’s possible Meredith and the new buyer, Authentic Brands Group, could extend their licensing deal, terms for which weren’t disclosed.
The magazine is “so essential in the psyche of sports,” said Samir Husni, director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi, even after the magazine lost some of its luster with ESPN’s entry to sports journalism decades ago.
Scott Gleeson of USA Today reported that Authentic Brands will receive related SI brands:
Authentic Brands will assume the licensing functions, business development and marketing for the Sports Illustrated brand. It also will receive the associated brands of SI, including Sports Illustrated Swimsuit, Sports Illustrated Kids and Sportsperson of the Year. Some planned business opportunities include events, conferences, gambling and gaming products and video and TV ventures.
“SI’s trusted name and fiercely devoted following set the stage for the brand to become a leader in lifestyle and entertainment,” Jamie Salter, the founder, chairman and CEO of Authentic Brands said in a statement.
Ben Strauss of The Washington Post reported that Authentic is primarily a fashion company:
Authentic Brands has never licensed a media company, though, and most of its holdings are in the fashion industry, where it owns licensing rights to Nautica and Juicy Couture. That makes the marriage a strange one for a publication that debuted in 1954 from magazine magnate Henry Luce. The weekly glossy quickly became the pinnacle of sports writing — home to writers such as Frank Deford and Dan Jenkins — as well as its annual swimsuit issue. In recent years, Sports Illustrated has fallen on harder times, along with much of the magazine industry, and it was slow to adapt to a digital world as advertising revenue dwindled and audiences moved online.
What the sale means to the journalism of Sports Illustrated is harder to say. The magazine remains profitable, and Meredith and Authentic Brands reached a profit-sharing agreement, the people familiar with the arrangement said. But at the end of the two year-agreement, Meredith has the right to walk away from the deal, which would leave Authentic Brands looking for an editor and publisher in a difficult industry. (The print version of the magazine will continue to be published over that time.) Last month, ESPN announced its flagship magazine would stop publishing a print edition because it was not profitable.