5 Companies that Should Try to Buy Rolling Stone

Bids will start coming in soon, but here are a handful of companies that might be in the mix.

09/18/2017

rolling-stone-gal-gadot-cover-interview-e11597f7-ff41-47ae-8f27-9c96aebc964eWenner Media started 2017 owning Us Weekly, Men’s Journal, Glixel and 51% of Rolling Stone. Now all that remains are the latter two, but the company revealed to The New York Times that its looking to unload its stake in its flagship brand.

We can’t really say we’re surprised, given how quickly they unloaded Men’s Journal to AMI after it bought Us Weekly for $100 million. Although, Gus Wenner did tell us that the company was eager to receive a cash infusion so it could invest in the iconic 50-year-old music and pop culture brand to build out its video and digital business.

While we could question what this would mean for the future of Wenner Media, which may not plan to have a future after it liquidates its premier brand, instead let’s speculate who might want a piece of the action.

1. American Media Inc.
This is sort of an obvious speculation since David Pecker and company are feeling pretty spendy these days, not to mention they seem to like shopping at Wenner Media this year. But here’s the rub: where does Rolling Stone fit in with a portfolio of celebrity gossip magazines and a fitness/lifestyle portfolio? In theory, Rolling Stone could nudge its way into the celebrity space and carve out a niche as a hipper version of Us or People, but I think at the age of 50 its identity is pretty much established.

AMI might make a play, or even win the bid, but it’s not necessarily the best fit. Will that matter to Jann and his heir apparent, Gus?

2. Univision
This company has made no secret of its intensions to capture the attention of a young, hip and smart audience. Its portfolio includes Fusion, The Onion and the remainder of Gawker Media’s brands, sans Gawker.com. The question here becomes what would the company do with Fusion, who it has spent a lot of time and money on developing, if it acquired a more well-established competitive brand? Not to mention, where would the print magazine fit in here? After all, Rolling Stone is more than a magazine, but it made its name in print and there’s still money to be made there.

3. Playboy Enterprises
If there’s one thing Playboy understands as well as anybody, it’s branding. There’s arguably nobody better at it in this space. Rolling Stone could really benefit by joining forces with the likes of Playboy, who could appropriate some of its strategies onto the music brand. The company also understands print, but is highly focused on building out its digital business. It has a tremendous licensing business, something Rolling Stone’s minority owners BandLab are hot on and it believes in video programming.

Perhaps two of the most iconic brands in magazine media could join forces? We’ll see.

4. Oreva Capital
Does this name sound unfamiliar? Well it may not for much longer. This is the consortium that purchased High Times and Here Media. Clearly the group, which includes musician Damien Marley, is looking to tap into a young, alternative crowd. The investors appear to have deep pockets, as it reportedly paid $70 million for a now-legitimate stoner magazine. Further, the company seems to believe in print, having made two sizable investments in brands that are still very much tied to the medium. And the fact that a successful musician has a seat on the board may inspire the group to throw a bid in.

5. BandLab
This might be the most obvious buyer. After all, it already owns 49% of the brand. Not a whole lot is known about the current synergy between BandLab and Wenner Media, other than it made the large investment in order to develop a more robust business around the strength of the Rolling Stone name. To our understanding, BandLab’s objective was to create more licensing, event and other business opportunities for Rolling Stone on a global scale. What’s missing here, of course, is what the company would want to do with its magazine and digital content, as that’s not native to its business. Still, one would think they would want to be in the mix since whatever Wenner Media decides will ultimate impact its investment.

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