Last week, Meredith Corporation (NYSE: MDP) announced the sale of the Sports Illustrated brand to Authentic Brands Group (ABG), a brand development, marketing and entertainment company, for $110 million. Sports Illustrated has a total audience of 120 million, making it the most-read sports magazine in the world. SI.com is among the top 10 sports websites, and Sports Illustrated has a strong presence on both print and digital platforms.
It is well-known for its annual swimsuit issue and the Sportsperson of the Year awards. Meredith opted to sell Sports Illustrated because the brand did not fit within its core competencies of lifestyle brands or serve its primary audiences. The company will use proceeds from the sale to pay down debt.
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We are honored to welcome Sports Illustrated to the ABG family, said Jamie Salter, founder, chairman and CEO of ABG said in a May 27 news release. As one of the most iconic brands in sports media, SI is a cultural centerpiece with massive opportunities for growth across its burgeoning digital, TV and social platforms and industry-leading print magazine. SI’s trusted name and fiercely devoted following set the stage for the brand to become a leader in lifestyle and entertainment.”
ABGs role will be in the marketing, business development and licensing of Sports Illustrated, and the print magazine and website, SI.com, will remain independent from an editorial perspective. They will continue to be run by Meredith with editor-in-chief Chris Stone and publisher Danny Lee. Meredith will pay ABG a licensing fee to operate the Sports Illustrated magazine and SI.com for at least two years.
We are delighted to find a great home for Sports Illustrated with ABG, one of the world’s premier brand owners and licensors, said Jon Werther, President, Meredith National Media Group. Additionally, we are excited about the opportunity to fully integrate Sports Illustrated’s print and digital products into Meredith’s operations. We believe our proven expertise in content creation and sales and marketing will greatly enhance the vitality and profitability of these channels.
John Zieser, chief development officer of Meredith, shared his comments as well.
This strategic partnership brings a new approach to media brand development, and we’re excited to leverage Meredith and ABG’s respective strengths to enhance and build upon Sports Illustrated’s undeniable value. We will also combine our world-class media platform and consumer audience with ABG’s brand development, marketing and licensing expertise to develop other media-driven opportunities across the company’s portfolio, said Zieser.
Here are some highlights from the deal:
- The acquisition includes the following brands: Sports Illustrated, Sports Illustrated Kids, Sportsperson of the Year, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit, SI and SI TV.
- The deal does not include the FanSided digital platform, which Meredith is selling.
- Part of the intellectual property purchased by ABG includes more than 2 million images from Sports Illustrateds photo archives.
Nick Woodhouse, president and CMO of ABG, also commented on the acquisition, noting they hope to expand Sports Illustrateds legacy and expand its reach.
Sports have a remarkable way of bringing people together – regardless of gender, race or socioeconomic status, the experiences shared by sports fans around the world are unifying and indelible, said Woodhouse. As a trailblazer and cultural phenomenon, Sports Illustrated has created moments and experiences for its readers that are unmatched by any other sports brand.
ABG owns more than 50 consumer brands and properties, including Nautica, Aeropostale, Juicy Couture, Airwalk, Fredericks of Hollywood, Muhammad Ali, Shaquille ONeal and Elvis Presley.
This news is not a surprise. In our May 3 Five on Friday feature, we shared that this sale was likely to happen. At that time, Awful Announcing speculated that Sports Illustrated would probably not be the same after the acquisition. They think ABG may continue the magazine for a few years and then go all digital. With Meredith continuing to operate the print magazine and SI.com, it looks like the magazine wont make any big changes for at least two years.
For Meredith, this is likely a good deal. The company can shed a brand that came along with its purchase of Time Inc. but that didnt fit within the companys own brand or plans for the future. Meredith was able to find a new home for it, while temporarily keeping a piece of it – the magazine and website. They can use the proceeds from the sale to pay down debt and to further reduce costs. We will, of course, be following the story to see what ABG plans for the brand.