Is the third time the charm?
Meredith Corp., the publisher of women-focused titles like Better Homes & Gardens and Martha Stewart Living, is reportedly pursuing the acquisition of Time Inc., which owns Time magazine and Sports Illustrated, among others. This is the third known attempt by Meredith to buy the media company, but the first with the support of the conservative billionaire Koch brothers.
A private-equity subsidiary of Koch Industries, the company owned by Charles G. and David H. Koch, is backing Meredith with over $500 million, according to multiple media outlets.
The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times are reporting the deal could be disclosed as early as the end of this month.
The first time Meredith tried to buy Time Inc. was in 2013, but the deal fell through when the two publishers could not agree on which magazines Meredith would buy.
Earlier this year, Meredith was reportedly one of the parties interested in buying Time Inc., but Time Inc. decided not to sell.
Instead, the publisher made cost cuts by selling its non-core assets, and announced it was exploring the sale of Coastal Living, Sunset and Golf, and a majority stake in Essence. It sold its experiential business INVNT in July.
According to the NYT, the discussions this time around were instigated by Time Inc., whose financial information is currently being examined by Meredith.
It is a tough time for publishers like Time Inc., which was founded in 1922 by Henry R. Luce and known for iconic titles like Time and Life. The media company has recently shifted its focus from its print stable and expanded its digital efforts and video production.
A Time-Meredith merger would likely see bundles of similar titles to boost circulation revenue, as well as more scale across its combined digital audiences.
Last month, two other big magazine publishers announced a merger: Hearst agreed to acquire Rodale.
The Koch brothers’ business is mainly in manufacturing, trading and investments. According to Forbes, it is the second-largest privately operated company in the United States, with annual sales revenue of more than $100 billion.
The libertarian brothers have backed numerous right-wing causes and politicians and fund a nonprofit conservative advocacy group called Americans for Prosperity.
While the Kochs do not own any big media companies, in 2013 they considered purchasing the Tribune Company’s eight newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune.
A big question looming now, should this acquisition succeed,would the Kochs exert any influence on a Meredith-owned Time Inc.?