The 'Sports Illustrated' Yarn: Print Edition May Be Shuttered After May Issue

The continuing melodrama over Sports Illustrated took a new turn last week when the Arena Group, which operates the title, said it would kill the print edition of the famed publication after the May issue. 

The staff, which was informed of this decision in a meeting, presumably will face additional layoffs if this occurs.  

Whether the Arena Group has the authority to kill the magazine remains to be seen. The Sports Illustrated brand is owned by Authentic Brands Group, which reportedly is seeking a new publishing licensee other than Arena Group. 

A new license holder could well reverse the print decision and/or continue publishing online.   

Manoj Bhargava, the self-proclaimed billionaire and founder of 5-hour Energy who acquired a two-thirds stake in The Arena Group last year, is trying to renegotiate the three years remaining on the ten-year, $150 million contract with Authentic, the New York Post reports.



The license to produce the magazine was suspended in January when Arena Group failed to make a $3.75 million payment. 

“Following a failure to make their quarterly license fee payment on January 1, we have put The Arena Group in breach with an intention to terminate the license absent a cure,” Authentic Brands said at the time. 

Shortly after that, the Arena Group said it would lay off the entire SI staff. 

Most of the union employees on the staff were given 90 days’ notice under the New York State WARN Act. But the union alleges that more than 10% were let go at once, including a union officer and one employee who had filed a grievance against the Arena Group.  

But the union calls the whole story into question.  

“It’s clear that The Arena Group ownership is using an engineered dispute over the SI license as a cover to union-bust and unlawfully target our members,” said Susan DeCarava, president of The NewsGuild of New York.




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