Last week Penske Media Corporation, the owner of Variety, Robb Report and Women’s Wear Daily, purchased a controlling interest in Wenner Media, the publisher of Rolling Stone magazine. Co-founder Jann S. Wenner will remain at Wenner Media as the editorial director and his son Gus will stay on as the president and COO and join the advisory board of Penske Media, reports The New York Times.
According to Variety, Wenner Media will retain ‘majority control and editorial oversight’ of Rolling Stone. Though terms of the deal have not been disclosed, Wenner Media has been valued at just over $100 million. BandLab Technologies, a Singapore-based, cloud-based platform for musicians, bought a 49 percent stake in Rolling Stone in 2016. They will continue as a partner in Rolling Stone.
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‘Our interest in Rolling Stone is driven by its people, its cultural significance, and the globally-recognized brand that has no peer in its areas of influence,’ said Penske Media chairman and CEO Jay Penske in a statement. ‘We believe that Penske Media is uniquely qualified to partner with the Wenners to ensure the brand continues to ascend for decades across multiple media platforms-we’re eager to get started.’
Jann Wenner, who founded Rolling Stone with Ralph J. Gleason, in 1967 also commented on what PMC is calling a ‘strategic investment.’
I am so proud of our accomplishments over the past 50 years and know Penske Media is the ideal match for us to thrive in today’s media landscape,’ said Jann Wenner in a statement.
‘We have such a unique and special product in Rolling Stone, and we are excited to build on its strong foundation and invest in its future through this partnership,’ Gus Wenner added.
In Penske Media’s press release, the company offered these transaction highlights:
- Rolling Stone will maintain its independent voice on U.S. pop culture and political coverage.
- The investment complements Penske Media’s other media brands, including Variety, IndieWire, Beauty Inc, FN, HollywoodLife, BGR and Deadline.com.
- Rolling Stone will benefit from Penske Media’s expertise in digital media, events, infrastructure and journalistic excellence.
- Penske Media’s brands attract more than 180 million readers every month to their media properties.
- Wenner Media was represented by Methuselah Advisors and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP. Penske Media was represented by Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP.
In September, Jann Wenner announced his intention to sell his majority stake in Wenner Media. At that time, Recode’s Peter Kafka said there were three bidders including Penske Media Corporation, Bryan Goldberg, co-founder of the Bleacher Report and publisher of Bustle, and music executive Irving Azoff.
When a possible sale was announced in September, it appeared that Jann Wenner was going to sell a controlling interest in Rolling Stone magazine, but it looks like instead, he sold a controlling interest in Wenner Media, but retained control of the magazine. With Wenner staying on, it will be interesting to see how the magazine will change, given Penske Media’s resources.
Rolling Stone has struggled with journalistic integrity in recent years, particularly after the ‘A Rape on Campus’ story broke, only to be retracted later for false claims and biased reporting. In one case, the magazine paid $1.65 million to settle a defamation lawsuit filed by the Virginia Alpha Chapter of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity.