Time Inc. Buys AmEx Publishing

Time Inc. is making big strategic moves as it prepares to be spun off from Time Warner. In the biggest move so far, on Tuesday, newly appointed CEO Joseph Ripp announced the acquisition of all of American Express Publishing’s magazines, including Travel + Leisure, Food & Wine, Departures, Executive Travel and Black Ink.

Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but the price tag is believed to be less than $100 million, according to unnamed sources cited by the New York Post.

The AmEx titles will become part of Time Inc.’s Lifestyle Group, reporting to executive vice president and Lifestyle Group president Evelyn Webster.

Previously, the publishers had a strategic relationship with Time Inc., handling various logistical issues for the AmEx titles. That partnership was forged two decades ago by Ripp during his previous tenure as CFO of Time Inc. Thus, the timing of his appointment as Time Inc. CEO last week, and the news of the acquisition probably isn’t a coincidence.

It’s unclear whether American Express cardholders will continue to receive certain AmEx titles gratis. Departures was a freebie for Platinum Card and Centurion members, Executive Travel went to Corporate Platinum Card holders and Black Ink was delivered twice a year to Centurion members.

The promise of a well-heeled audience has helped AmEx Publishing woo high-end advertisers and defy the general downward trend in print ad pages affecting the rest of the magazine industry, although it is not entirely immune. In the first half of the year, Departures was up 13.8% to 352 ad pages and Travel + Leisure was up 4.3% to 460, according to the Publishers Information Bureau. However, Food & Wine was down 4.2% to 379. That compares to an overall drop of 4.9% for all titles tracked by PIB.

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