PE will likely pass on New York Media sale: sources

New York Media may be a trophy brand, but private equity will likely not be interested, bankers and GPs said.

New York Media apparently went up for sale earlier this month. Lauren Starke, a New York media spokeswoman, told Buyouts by email that the company explores investment interest and strategic opportunities “as a general practice.”

“Given the growth New York Media has seen, it makes sense for us to evaluate the market for opportunities to continue to develop the business,” Starke said. She declined further comment.

How much New York Media is expected to sell for or who is advising is unclear.

The media company owns several websites including The Cut, Grub Street and The Strategist. It also owns New York magazine, its flagship product, which covers politics and culture.

In 2018, Jerry Saltz, New York mag’s senior art critic, won the Pulitzer Prize for criticism. He was nominated twice before.

Don’t expect private equity to come calling, sources said. New York Media is considered a trophy brand with a strong revenue model and attractive margins, people said. Magazines, however, are not in favor with PE, sources said.

“Print is tough: low growth at best with limited debt availability,” a PE executive said.

PE won’t be interested in New York Media unless it becomes a distressed sale, another person said. Or if a PE firm had an angle, like an existing executive who could run the business, it may consider New York Media, a third person said.

Otherwise, the company will likely land with a strategic or a celebrity/business personality looking for a vanity play, the third source said.

The heirs of Bruce Wasserstein, the legendary banker, control the holding company that owns New York Media, said the Wall Street Journal, which reported the sale earlier this week.

Wasserstein purchased New York magazine for $55 million in 2003, the story said. Wasserstein also owned The Deal, which The Street acquired in 2012 after his death.

The New York Media auction comes as other magazines are also up for sale.

Conde Nast is selling W, Brides and Golf Digest, according to press reports, while Univision in July confirmed that it had put Gizmodo Media Group and the Onion up for sale. The auction also includes the RootDeadspin and Jezebel.

One of the more publicized auctions is Meredith Corp’s sale of Time, Fortune, Money and Sports Illustrated. Citigroup and Houlihan Lokey are advising on the process.

PE is also not interested in the magazines Meredith picked up from its buy of Time Inc, Buyouts said in March.

While it’s unclear who is buying the magazines (they are expected to be sold separately), Meredith said Aug. 10 that it hoped to finalize agreements to sell Time, Sports Illustrated, Fortune and Money mags, along with a 60 percent stake in Viant, by early fiscal 2019.

A Meredith spokesman clarified that the company hoped to ink agreements before Dec. 31.

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