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Cox Enterprises Buys Majority Stake in Axios Media

A digital media start-up valued at $525M

Cox Enterprises announced they are purchasing a 70% stake in Axios Media Inc., a digital media start-up currently valued at $525 million. Cox said they plan to expand Axios to serve more cities, cover more national topics, and develop more premium niches for professionals. The company said they had previously invested in Axios last fall as part of their plan to diversify Cox Enterprises.

Alex Taylor, Cox Enterprises chairman and CEO, will join the Axios board. He commented on the acquisition in an August 8, 2022 news release.

“With so much happening in the world, Axios plays a critical role in delivering balanced, trusted news that people need,” said Taylor. “Our company started in the media business, and we have always had a passion for journalism. Bringing a forward-thinking organization like Axios into Cox Enterprises is exciting for us on many levels, and we look forward to helping them continue to scale and grow.”

About Axios Media Inc.

Axios was co-founded in January 2017 by Jim VandeHei, Mike Allen and Roy Schwartz who wanted more focused, smarter, more efficient news coverage on important topics of the day. They launched the company with a goal of always putting their audience first. They continue to evolve that mission, creating the Axios Bill of Rights to offer specific promises to their readers, listeners and viewers. For example, they promise they will never publish AI-written stories, no bots and no fake accounts. They will also take full responsibility for all content on their public platforms.

Their guiding principles spell out their values:

  1. Audience first
  2. Elegant efficiency
  3. Smart, always
  4. No BS for sale
  5. Excellence, always

The Axios founders and their employees will retain about 30% ownership of the company, according to the Washington Post, and each will remain in their current roles, managing editorial content and day-to-day operations.

“We have found our kindred spirit for creating a great, trusted, consequential media company that can outlast us all,” said VandeHei, current Axios CEO. “Our shared ambitions should be clear: to spread clinical, nonpartisan, trusted journalism to as many cities and as many topics as fast as possible.” 

The Axios communications software business, known as Axios HQ, will remain an independent company with the majority of it owned by Axios co-founders. Cox will be a sole minority investor. VandeHei will serve as the chairman of the board with Schwartz as the CEO.

“We are excited about entering into this new chapter with Cox and the opportunities we can explore with Axios HQ as a separate business,” said Roy Schwartz, president of Axios. “For both companies, our mission is to help as many people and companies get smarter, faster on what matters.”

Another value important to Axios is transparency. On their website, they list where they get their revenue. This could potentially change under Cox, but for now, those revenue sources include the following:

  • Corporate and Social Responsibility advertising
  • Performance ads
  • Sponsored events
  • Axios HQ technology and services
  • Axios Pro, subscription-based newsletters
  • Smart Brevity Studio
  • Content partnerships
  • Programmatic advertising
  • Membership revenue
  • Job and event boards
Axios co-founders Mike Allen, Jim VandeHei and Roy Schwartz.
Axios co-founders Mike Allen, Jim VandeHei and Roy Schwartz.
Source: Axios

About Cox Enterprises

This purchase is Cox’s latest media acquisition. They also own The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Dayton Daily News and other Ohio Newspapers. Cox Enterprises is divided into two major business divisions: Cox Communications and Cox Automotive.

Their communications division is the largest private broadband company in America and the third largest cable provider in the U.S. They serve more than 6.5 million homes and businesses across 18 states, have about 18,000 employees, and generate more than $12 billion in revenue annually. Cox Automotive includes more than 25 brands, including Autotrader®, and Kelley Blue Book®. In addition, Cox Enterprises has invested in the cleantech industry, health care, and esports.

Insider Take

Axios had an incredible vision when the company first launched in 2017, and they have kept their promises as their business model evolved. They deliver consistently good content, they are transparent, and they are doing their part to bring trust back to the journalism industry. Their $525 million valuation is impressive in five-and-a-half years, and this financial boost from Cox will allow them to serve more readers in more markets. This is an exciting opportunity for both Cox and Axios, provided that Axios is able to remain true to its roots. We are excited to see what’s next.

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