Since the calendar turned to 2018, publishing has seen iconic print magazines and marquee websites regularly head to the auction block.
Earlier this year, Meredith announced it was putting Time, Fortune, Sports Illustrated and Money up for sale, after unloading Sunset, Essence and Golf earlier. Meanwhile, Univision put former Gawker sites Deadspin, Jezebel and Lifehacker on the market. And just last week, Condé Nast officially confirmed its intent to sell W, Golf Digest and Brides after much speculation.
Yesterday, per The Wall Street Journal, the owners of New York Media sent a memo to staff outlining the company’s intention to explore the possibilities of expanding with outside investors or selling the company outright.
Bruce Wasserstein bought the magazine in 2003 for $55 million when it was struggling financially, but still offered a strong editorial product. Since then, ownership has transitioned to a holding company that is controlled by Wasserstein’s heirs. Pamela Wasserstein currently heads the company after taking over in 2016.
Wasserstein wrote in her memo yesterday, “Partnering to support acquisitions or other ways of growing might make sense. Or it might not.”
The ambiguity of the statement reveals little about the owners’ desires, but a bit more about intentions.
Since the publication was bought in 2003, it has developed a rich stable of valuable websites—including Vulture, The Cut, Grub Street and The Strategist—that show record growth year after year.
In an official statement, New York Media wrote, “We are focused on building our business organically, but we also explore investment interest and strategic opportunities as a general practice...Given the growth New York Media has seen, it makes sense for us to evaluate the market for opportunities to continue to develop the business.”
A strong media brand has become an increasingly valuable asset as weaker publications and publishers have been forced to sell off parts or close up shop entirely. If New York Media attracted the right investor, it could acquire more valuable publishing real estate like its 2018 acquisition of Splitsider, the comedy website formerly part of the Awl Network, and build a stronger and more diverse future for itself with the Wassersteins still at the helm.
On the other hand, the company has been in the Wasserstein name for a decade and a half, and several outlets note that the family may be ready to part with the product it worked to strengthen.