Less than one year after Meredith Corp. purchased Time Inc., the publisher has agreed to sell Time magazine to Salesforce co-founder Marc Benioff for $190 million.
Time went on sale in March along with Meredith publications Fortune, Sports Illustrated, and Money. The deal is a blessing for Meredith, which plans to use the proceeds to pay down debt incurred as print media continues to lose readers in an increasingly digital world.
“We’re investing in a company with tremendous impact on the world, one that is also an incredibly strong business,” said Mr. Benioff, who referred to the magazine as a “treasure trove of history and culture.”
The proposed sale, which is expected to close in October, dumps one of the nation’s most famous magazines into the hands of a liberal billionaire. Benioff won’t be involved in day-to-day operations at Time, but he and his wife Lynne have already encouraged staffers to imagine what the magazine will look like in 2040.
The sale of Time to a billionaire is also indicative of a larger trend.
In 2013, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos purchased the Washington Post. In 2017, Laurence Powell Jobs (widow of Steve Jobs) acquired a majority stake in the Atlantic magazine.
“It’s the only business model that makes sense – a billionaire swoops in and keeps it alive,” says former Time editor Josh Quittner.
But unfortunately it’s the liberal billionaires who are doing it. Benioff is not a hardcore liberal, but he will certainly help maintain a liberal brand that otherwise may have died off.
Benioff is a vocal critic of President Trump who has long supported causes including LGBQT rights, environmentalism, and education.
“We are honored to be the caretakers of one the world’s most important media companies and iconic brands,” said Benioff. “Time has always been a trusted reflection of the state of the world, and reminds us that business is one of the greats platforms for change.”
Time magazine was launched in by Yale graduates Henry Luce and Briton Hadden, with the very first issue hitting newsstands in March 1923 with a cover price of just 15 cents.
Seeking to cut printing costs, Time this year cut its circulation from 3 million down to 2.3 million for the six-month period ending in June.
At the same time, the magazine has successfully expanded its online audience from 27.4 million unique visitors per month (in 2015) to 31.7 million.