Sports Illustrated

If Authentic Brands Group is successful in snapping up Sports Illustrated, it would undoubtedly become primarily a licensing and digital play.

According to sources, the print magazine would continue to be published for at least the next two years as ABG works to capitalize on its content to extend the brand’s reach into a number of sports-related businesses. That could include everything from camps for kids to sports rehabilitation clinics, sources said.

AGB owns 50 brands, 45 percent of which are in the fashion space, and is the world’s fourth-largest licensing company. It has $9.3 billion in annual retail sales. Among its sports-affiliated brands are Greg Norman, Shaquille O’Neal, Muhammad Ali, Prince, Spyder, Volcom, Hind, Above the Rim and Julius Erving.

One source close to the company said a Sports Illustrated site could potentially include golf tips from Norman or basketball strategy ideas from O’Neal. “This would be very different from just making Sports Illustrated jackets,” the source said. “That’s not the business they’re going into.”

This week, ABG has emerged as a leading contender to buy the sports magazine from Meredith Corp. The price is expected to be about $110 million, according to published reports.

A deal is expected to be completed sometime in the second quarter, sources said. “They’re moving fast and feeling pretty good about being able to close the deal,” the source said.

Junior Bridgeman, a former NBA player and businessman, is also in the mix to purchase the title.

If ABG prevails, it would also help power the company’s entertainment portfolio, which accounts for 25 percent of its overall sales, and would help it move into the media and content business.

Sports Illustrated had been one of the flagship titles for Time Inc. but Meredith, which purchased Time Inc. for $1.85 billion in 2018, said immediately that it did not fit into company’s lifestyle magazine portfolio and would be put up for sale along with Time Magazine, Fortune and Money.

Meredith sold Time Magazine to Salesforce’s Marc and Lynne Benioff for $190 million, and Fortune to Thai businessman Chatchaval Jiaravanon for $150 million. Last week it abandoned efforts to sell Money, saying it would retain the title but convert it to a digital-only product starting this summer.

Meredith had originally hoped to sell Sports Illustrated for around $150 million, but the price has now gone down as potential acquirers balked at such a high ticket.

ABG is backed by private equity firms Leonard Green & Partners, General Atlantic and Lion Capital.

Jamie Salter, chief executive officer of ABG, could not be reached for comment on the report.

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