Commentary

'Sports Illustrated' Loses TPG As Potential Buyer, 2 Major Bidders Still In Running

TPG Capital, the $103 billion private-equity firm that owns talent and sports agency Creative Artists Agency, withdrew from the bidding fray for Sports Illustrated, according to the New York Post.

The sports magazine best known for its swimsuit issue has been on the block since last year. Publisher Meredith Corp. acquired the title with its $2.8 billion takeover of Time Inc. in January 2018.

Jon Miller, a former executive at AOL and News Corp., was leading the possible bid by TPG, whose internet and media investments also include Airbnb, Hotwire, Ipsy, Lynda.com, RentPath, SurveyMonkey, TES Global and Uber. TPG will have a chance to cash in on its investment in Uber when the ride-hailing company goes public later this year.

“It is not likely to lead to a transaction,” a source told reporter Keith Kelly at the New York Post.

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Last year, Meredith announced plans to sell Sports Illustrated, Fortune, Time and Money. Time and Fortune were sold quickly to private investors, while SI and Money have been in limbo.

Meredith originally sought $150 million for SI and has held firm on that asking price.

Two other bidders are said to be in the running for SI, including former Milwaukee Bucks star Ulysses “Junior” Bridgeman. He built a fortune with investments in fast-food franchising and Coca-Cola bottling.

News Corp. also is considering a bid for SI, but is more interested in FanSided, its digital property, per the NYP.

Like many print publications, SI has seen a steady decline in readership and advertising as audiences shifted their reading habits to digital media. The magazine had a weekly print circulation of 3.1 million in 2010, but cut its frequency to biweekly last year as ad pages dwindled.

The top sports websites include traditional media brands, like ESPN, CBS Sports, Fox Sports and The Sporting News, and digital newcomers such as Verizon Media’s Yahoo! Sports, Turner’s Bleacher Report, Vox Media’s SBNation and Yardbarker.

The problem with sports programming is the average age of its viewership; it keeps rising as younger audiences lose interest in sports. Athletic participation for kids has dropped in the past decade, while other forms of entertainment, such as streaming video, social media and esports, are gaining the attention of younger audiences, according to IPG Media Lab.

Those trends are likely to suppress the value of any sports-related brand, including media properties like SI.

1 comment about "'Sports Illustrated' Loses TPG As Potential Buyer, 2 Major Bidders Still In Running".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, April 18, 2019 at 10:32 a.m.

    Rob, magazine audiences fleeing to digital media is not the magazine medium's problem. It's lack of advertiser support which causes publishers to trim unprofitable subscriptions and reduce their frequency of publication. Magazines totally missed the boat by not developing a meaningful online presence--with timely and exclusively online content----plus their failure to promote their medium adequately, years ago. Now they are paying the price. The average person spends a handful of minutes with magazines daily. If all of this shifted to digital it wouldn't amount to a hill of beans.

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