Time To Go: 18 Time4 Titles Bought by Bonnier

Eighteen titles from Time4Media and Time Inc.'s parenting group have been purchased by Bonnier, a Swedish publisher with operations in 20 countries around the world, the companies announced Thursday. With a sale price reportedly between $200 and $300 million, the deal brings Time Inc. less than the company had hoped for the properties. Time claimed one upside: The titles went to another media company prepared to invest in them, rather than private investors.

Titles in the sale include Field & Stream, Outdoor Life, Popular Science, and Parenting.

The Time4Media titles will be absorbed by Bonnier's U.S. partner, World Publications, which publishes special-interest magazines catering to affluent readers, like Saveur and Spa.

Bonnier acquired a 49% stake in World Publications for $70 million in May 2006. The projected $350 million in annual revenue from its expanded U.S. portfolio may push Bonnier's annual global revenues over the $3 billion mark. In 2006, the company had revenues of about $2.9 billion.

The sale brings to a close an auction that had gone more slowly than expected. The auction kicked off in early September, and was originally scheduled to wrap on Jan. 1. However, delays in delivering requested financial documentation to prospective bidders slowed the process and pushed the close date back by three weeks. The media industry's lukewarm response to the sale may have factored in--a supposition supported by the low sale price.

Ann Moore, Time Inc.'s chairman and CEO, highlighted the financial and strategic benefits for Time Inc., which divested itself of the titles to concentrate on its core brands. "This transaction underscores Time Inc.'s commitment to focus our energy, resources and investment on our biggest and most profitable brands." Significantly, Time Inc. is holding onto two of Time4Media's biggest titles, Golf and This Old House--both strong multiplatform operations.

Bonnier is also banking on multiplatform investment, as reflected in an internal memo from Time4Media President Tom Beusse, who said: "They also understand vertical media brands and the value of their connection with passionate enthusiast audiences...Together, we have the unique opportunity to build a new multi-platform media company."

Moore said her company wanted to find a buyer who would help the ex-Time properties grow, and added that Bonnier will be "able to nurture their specialized titles."

All but one of the 18 titles sold to Bonnier have been struggling in terms of ad pages, according to the most recent report from the Publishers Information Bureau (PIB) comparing full year 2006 to 2005. Parenting is down 20.1% to 1,018 pages; Babytalk, down 11.3% to 519 pages; Popular Science, down 2.9% to 730 pages; Field & Stream, down 13.3% to 605 pages; and Outdoor Life, down 14.9% to 425 pages.