This column has been updated.
The Asian investors who bought Forbes five years ago are looking to unload their 95% interest in the storied publisher, media columnist Keith Kelly reported in the New York Post, citing unnamed sources.
Kelly wrote that Forbes Media’s majority owners are weighing a sale of the magazine and websites, setting off speculation about possible bidders for the company.
Forbes Media has denied the NYP’s report of a sale. In addition to denying the report, a Forbes Media spokesperson said the company's owners “have always maintained from the beginning that they are looking to bring on additional investors who can add value."
In 2014, Forbes was acquired by a Hong Kong-based consortium called Integrated Whale Media Investments, led by investment firm Integrated Asset Management and Wayne Hsieh, cofounder of Asustek Computer Inc. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed, but The New York Times reported the deal valued Forbes at as much as $475 million.
The sale was a major relief for Elevation Partners, the investment firm that included U2's Bono as a cofounder.
It had bought a 45% interest in Forbes in 2006, before the global financial crisis and ensuing recession had a devastating effect on publishers. Elevation wrote down its $264 million investment in Forbes by as much 90%, but managed to salvage the valuation with the sale to Integrated Asset Management.
While Elevation exited its investment, Steve Forbes and other members of the Forbes family have maintained a 5% percent stake in the company.
It’s most likely that Integrated Asset Management will find another buyer in Asia, if Meredith Corp.’s sale of Fortune magazine is any indication. Thai businessman Chatchaval Jiaravanon, a member of Thailand’s richest family, bought Fortune last year from Meredith for $150 million.
Fortune and Forbes are revered in Asia, where a generation of people has embraced capitalism as high-growth emerging markets open to the world economy.
The valuation may suggest that Forbes’ majority owners are about to take a significant haircut on their investment. However, Forbes doesn’t disclose its annual revenue and profit, making a valuation difficult to pin down
Note: An earlier version of this column stated a Forbes Media spokesperson didn't deny the report of a sale, which was actually a claim by the New York Post, which first reported the news. It was not based on original reporting.