Penske Media to buy 51% stake in Jan Wenner’s Rolling Stone

22 Dec 2017


Media investor Jay Penske said his firm Penske Media was buying a 51-per cent stake in Wenner Media, whose main asset is the iconic Rolling Stone magazine.

Penske Media Corp owns the trade publications Variety, Deadline and Women's Wear Daily.

No financial details were disclosed, but a person familiar with the situation told The Wall Street Journal Wenner Media was valued at roughly $100 million, while the Financial Times' sources put the value at $110 million - which means that Penske Media paid upward of $50 million for its majority stake.

The 50-year old magazine is best known for covering music and popular culture, but also features political journalism and commentary, usually taking a progressive stance.

Founder Jan Wenner - a well-known rock and roll historian - started the magazine in San Francisco in 1967 with music critic Ralph Gleason. It has remained under the control of his company, Wenner Media, since then. Singapore-based BandLab Technologies also owns a 49-per cent stake in the publication.

Under the deal, Wenner will be appointed editorial director, while Wenner Media chief operating officer Gus Wenner will become a part of Penske's advisory board, in addition to keeping his current role.

The magazine has been facing a tougher business environment of late as the entire publishing industry adapts to a more digitally engaged readership.

Wenner Media in September said it was exploring strategic options for its majority interest in the Rolling Stone magazine, continuing its shift from print media business amid falling ad revenues.

As part of the agreement, Singapore-based music start-up BandLab Technologies, which currently has a 49-per cent stake in Rolling Stone, will continue as Wenner Media's partner in the magazine, the companies added.

Penske said he hoped to ensure that Rolling Stone "continues to ascend for decades across multiple media platforms".

"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," he added.

Rolling Stone has been a fixture of music commentary and US political life for decades. But it is also well known for its iconic front covers, which were for many years the ultimate symbol of a music act's success and relevance.

However, its reputation for strong journalism suffered a blow after it published a false story in 2014 about an alleged rape on campus at the University of Virginia. It retracted the story in 2015, and paid out a defamation settlement.

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