PMC chief Jay Penske has closed a $100 million deal to acquire a controlling interest in Wenner Media, the parent company of the venerable rock music bible Rolling Stone. Jann Wenner, who founded the magazine in 1967 with Ralph Gleason in San Francisco with a $7,500 loan from family members, will still be involved and take the role of editorial director. His son, Gus Wenner, will continue as president/COO. PMC will beef up its content and will announce its editorial lineup shortly. Gus Wenner will join Penske Media Corp’s Advisory Board.
Penske’s plan is to continue the magazine as a consumer print publication, and invest heavily to exploit the iconic brand name and broaden its footprint into the business-to-business sector, as well as building up the magazine’s already strong digital platform. PMC will invest in areas like the live event business and licensing. The music industry has revived itself as a viable industry in the streaming era, which makes it an attractive place to cross into B-to-B coverage.
It is the biggest investment in a single title that PMC has made, and rivals the amount paid for Fairchild Publications and its titles that include Women’s Wear Daily. The deal broadens the company’s portfolio, one that include Deadline Hollywood and more recent acquisitions Variety, WWD, IndieWire and The Robb Report.
Penske closed the deal today after a final meeting with Wenner. The competition was spirited for ownership of the magazine, and rival bidders reportedly included THR owner Todd Boehly’s Eldridge Industries; the music producer Irving Azoff; and the Sinagpore-based BandLab, which bought a 49% interest in 2016 that it continues to hold.
Wenner expanded his company by broadening into ownership of Us Weekly and Men’s Journal, and then took on debt when he repurchased Us from Disney. He has sold off those other assets. The magazine is known for its sharp commentary on music, politics and social issues, though it suffered a black eye for publishing an exposé on campus rape at the University of Virginia that it was forced to retract. Its coverage on the polarizing rise of President Donald Trump has been in keeping with the spirited origins, when the magazine became famous for the journalistic exploits of writers including Hunter S. Thompson and Cameron Crowe.
“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. “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.”
“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, editorial director of Wenner Media.
“We couldn’t ask for a better partner than Jay and Penske Media to invest in our company’s future success. They understand the importance and impact of Rolling Stone, and we are thrilled for this opportunity to grow our business together,” said Gus Wenner, president and chief operating officer of Wenner Media.
Wenner Media was represented by Methuselah Advisors and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP. Penske Media was represented by Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP.