A sale of Rodale Inc., the family-owned publisher of magazines such as Men’s Health and Women’s Health, could potentially come before the end of the summer.
The company, which revealed that it was putting itself up for sale late last month, is already getting interest from a handful of publishers, including American Media Inc., Hearst and Meredith Corp., even though it has yet to put its “book” out, sources said. (That doesn’t seem to matter much as both Hearst and Meredith made a run at Rodale in the past).
Although some have put Rodale’s valuation in the $100 million-range, others put it at $200 million to $300 million. It believed that the media firm’s revenues are between $200 million and $250 million and that profits are in the low single-digit millions. For context, in 2015, The Wall Street Journal reported that Rodale’s sales were between $300 million and $350 million, which was down from more than $600 million in 2008.
According to sources, Rodale will release its book within the next two weeks, and it is believed that some sort of deal could come in the next six weeks. The immediacy of a possible deal is likely due to the fact that Rodale is said to owe money on its bank loans. An insider pointed out that the speed of the deal could be linked to the fact that advertising plans for 2018 were already being plotted out and that any acquiring media companies would want to incorporate Rodale’s new titles into their portfolios to show scale.
A Rodale spokeswoman declined to comment.
Returning to the suitors, AMI chief executive officer David Pecker has been vocal about his interest in Rodale’s Men’s Health title. Following his company’s acquisition of Men’s Journal from Wenner Media, he told The New York Times that he intended to pursue Men’s Health “very aggressively.” If it succeeds in buying Men’s Health, AMI could consolidate the men’s fitness market, as it would join its other titles Men’s Journal, Men’s Fitness, Muscle & Fitness, Flex and Muscle & Fitness Hers.
But Rodale would not likely sell off its biggest title and continue as a publishing house, insiders said. A more likely scenario would be a total sale of the company, which would be dismantled for parts or select titles.
Insiders believe Men’s Health alone could go for between $100 million and $150 million, and Women’s Health could sell for between $75 million and $100 million, for instance. There’s also Runner’s World, Rodale Books and Rodale’s International division, among other assets. Other titles — like the ad-free Prevention, Rodale’s Organic Life and e-commerce site Rodale’s — are viewed as less important, to put it nicely.
Another plausible suitor is Hearst Magazines, which is said to have its eye on Women’s Health, Runner’s World and Rodale International. Hearst tried unsuccessfully to enter the fitness space in recent years when it launched and quietly shuttered CosmoBody. On the international side, Hearst and Rodale had formed a venture called NatMag, which publishes some of its magazines abroad, so it would make sense for Hearst to acquire that piece of the business.
Hearst did not return requests seeking comment on its interest in Rodale.
Lastly, Meredith, which had been a leading contender to acquire Time Inc. earlier this year, is in the market for an acquisition. A representative from Meredith told WWD: “We are always interested in adding attractive media properties to our portfolio. We have tremendous respect for Rodale and its brands and look forward to participating in the process.”
What’s likely attractive for Meredith is Runner’s World and Women’s Health, among other things.
Common to all these potential scenarios is the likelihood that David Zinczenko, the founder and ceo of Galvanized Media, who had been a wunderkind at Rodale as editor in chief of Men’s Health and later assuming oversight of Women’s Health and Prevention, could be involved in some way as an investor, editorial lead or consultant.
Zinczenko left Rodale in 2012 after 12 years at the company; he moved to AMI to grow Men’s Fitness and its other fitness titles, leaving earlier this year to focus on Galvanized, which includes Eat This, Not That and Best Life.
Zinczenko declined to address rumors but instead offered: “I was committed to the Rodale mission for more than 20 years and have a great amount of respect and admiration for the extraordinary staff that creates award-winning content that helps people improve their lives for the better. Galvanized Media was built to continue that passion. We’re improving the health and well-being of millions of people around the world with brands like Eat This, Not That and Best Life, and if an opportunity presented itself to amplify that lifelong mission, it would be an opportunity that I would definitely be interested in.”
A restructuring had been under way at Rodale over the last few years, which included large-scale layoffs and budget cuts. Earlier this year, the company tried to reinvent its editorial and business side through a reorganization, but some speculated that it was too little, too late.