American Media, the US publisher of National Enquirer, OK! and Star, has doubled down on its presence among supermarket-checkout magazines by agreeing to acquire Us Weekly from Wenner Media, the publisher of Rolling Stone and Men's Journal. Founded in 1977 by the New York Times Company, Us Weekly was purchased by Wenner in 1985. Wenner then sold a controlling stake in the celebrity magazine to Disney for roughly $40 million in 2001, only to buy it back for a reported $300 million in 2006. Although Us Weekly remains one of the more popular US magazine titles, moving almost 2 million paid copies each week and reaching more than 22 million visitors online each month, its sales slumped by 30% in 2H 2016, according to the New York Times.
Deals in media can command sizeable sums—indeed, one need look no further than AT&T’s $85.4 billion bid for Time Warner. However, Us Weekly quite likely went for far, far less, something more in the neighborhood of $100 million (financial details of the transaction were not disclosed), as US publisher Tronc (fka Tribune Publishing), the owner of the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times, had reportedly reached the late stages of negotiations with Wenner for Us Weekly at that price just last week.
If the deal goes through, it will be American Media’s fourth since 2010, according to the PitchBook Platform. But that’s a long way from first place in this competitive space:
Since 2010, US investors have completed 1,916 M&A deals in media, per the Platform. In 2016, deal flow fell to its lowest level in five years.
US media M&A since 2010
Deal flow for the past seven years peaked with 2014’s 339 done, 32 more than the following year’s total. Completed US media deals—Charter’s $63 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable chief among them—have largely involved broadcast, radio and television companies at 28% of the total, though, publishing proper accounts for 21% of all deals in media since 2010.
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