Meredith Corp., backed by the financial power of the Koch brothers, has agreed to purchase Time, Inc. for $2.8 billion, including debt. The once-mighty Time, publishers of Fortune, Sports Illustrated, People, and (of course) Time Magazine, has fallen into financial difficulty in the internet age. Meredith, which primarily targets women, is best known for publishing Better Homes & Gardens and Martha Stewart Living.
When combined, the two publishers will have a readership of over 135 million people, more than a third of the American population, and a paid circulation of 60 million.
According to the Financial Post, Meredith said in a statement that the $18.50-per-share offer is all cash: while Koch Equity Developments will give them a $650 million cash injection to revive their failing publications, they won’t be taking a seat on the board of directors or have any influence on Meredith’s editorial or managerial operations. The deal is intended to give Meredith a larger audience in a time where that is increasingly necessary to compete, and the Koch brothers a foothold in an industry they had previously avoided.
This isn’t the first time that Meredith has shown interest in acquiring Time; the publisher made an earlier bid in talks with Time Warner. That bid fell apart, and Time Warner instead spun Time, Inc. off as an independent company. Meredith renewed their interest in early 2017, but was allegedly, according to the Financial Times, unable to pay what Time was seeking and was having difficulty arranging additional funding. Time eventually stated that the company would not be sold, but with the additional $650 million offered by Koch, they were willing to return to the table.
Meanwhile, in spite of their apparent non-involvement, the Koch financing has raised questions of journalistic integrity and financial influence over the media. As the Financial Post points out, the Koch brothers have spent decades building a network of wealthy conservatives who lobby for and donate to conservative causes and advocacy groups. And while the Kochs are ostensibly keeping their hands off, many observers have suggested that their merely having a significant financial interest in the company may influence the tone of their publications, among other, more grim prognostications.
Still, when all is said and done, the Meredith-Time merger also represents an opportunity to renew and strengthen the presence of print media in an age where no publisher is without struggles.
Time, as they say, will tell.
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