‘Sports Illustrated’ Sold For $110 Million To Authentic Brands

Sports Illustrated's awards last year
Rich Polk / Getty Images

America’s most iconic sports magazine has a new owner.

Sports Illustrated, the magazine known for top-notch sports journalism, as well as the annual swimsuit issue, has been acquired for $110 million by Authentic Brands Group, a New York-based brand management company, Variety reported.

The magazine is currently owned by Meredith Corp., who took over of the magazine when it bought SI‘s longtime owner, Time Inc., in early 2018.

Meredith will continue to license the right to run the editorial operations for at least two more years, while Authentic Brands will take possession of the Sports Illustrated name and all of its trademarks, including the swimsuit issue and the Sportsman and Sportsperson of the Year names. Also part of the deal is SI’s entire archive, including its photos, going back to the magazine’s launch in 1954.

Not part of the deal is Fansided, the fan-driven sports website that Meredith is seeking to sell off separately. It’s unclear how long the print edition of Sports Illustrated will survive beyond the two years of the Meredith licensing deal. SI‘s main print rival, the Disney-owned ESPN the Magazine, recently announced plans to drop its print edition.

The company will also retain its current editorial leadership.

The CEO of Authentic Brands told Variety in an interview that the company’s potential plans for the SI brand include Sports Illustrated medical clinics and sports-skills training classes, as well as new uses for that photo archive. An SI-oriented gambling business is also a possibility, the executive said.

Meredith had previously sold Time magazine to Salesforce founder Marc Benioff and his wife Lynne for $190 million.

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Authentic Brands Group owns parts of the estates of the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and Muhammad Ali, and has also purchased such brands as Aéropostale, Frederick’s of Hollywood, Juicy Couture, and Nautica. The company has not, however, played much of a role in the media business over the years.

A Women’s Wear Daily story last month speculated that an Authentic Brands-owned version of SI could conceivably offer golf tips from Greg Norman or basketball-related content from Shaquille O’Neal, both of whom work with Authentic Brands already.

The company, per a New York Post account last month, was bidding against Junior Bridgeman, the former NBA player-turned-fast food entrepreneur, with Bridgeman said to be in the lead at that point, although Bridgeman announced at the end of last month that he was out of the running.