W magazine is getting closer to a sale and is said to be in talks with at least one serious buyer.
C Ventures, the venture capital firm started about 18 months ago by Adrian Cheng and Clive Ng, is thought to be in the lead to acquire W from Condé Nast, sources tell WWD. While the current price is unclear, the initial asking price was said to be around $8 million and negotiations are thought to have brought the price down by around $1 million.
Nevertheless, the sale process is ongoing and there is not yet a signed deal, so no final price or an official closing date, meaning both the price and the buyer could change. But it’s thought that a sale could be finalized sometime during Condé’s first fiscal quarter, which ends in May.
A Condé spokesman declined to comment and a representative of Cheng and C Ventures could not be reached.
As first reported by WWD, Greenhill & Co. is handling the sale process and W already has an operating budget for this fiscal year, with its second of eight yearly issues on the way. Greenhill is also handling Condé’s sale of Brides and Golf magazines, and those titles are thought to be in a similar phase of the process, but there is little market talk about who is looking to acquire either.
C Ventures could be a good outcome for W, which was founded close to 50 years ago as a sister publication to WWD by John Fairchild, the longtime leader and owner of the publications. They both landed at Condé in the late Nineties, with WWD eventually split off and sold in 2014 to Penske Media. W stayed with Condé and slowly went from being a monthly publication to one that published in a number of “volumes” and with an increasingly tight budget, like many other Condé magazines.
Cheng’s fund with Ng, the first son of billionaire entrepreneur Henry Cheng and the second a frequent media investor in Asia, is focused on creating a portfolio of fashion brands and media outlets aimed at younger generations of consumers, namely Millennials and Gen Z. The fund already has a minority stake in Jefferson Hack’s Dazed Media, which includes four magazines, its most high-profile media investment. Buying W magazine could up its influence in fashion media and give it a good in with more advertisers — luxury brands, at least, still like to be in print media and in the pages of W, with its large format and artful design.
Also, C Ventures would surely work to expand W in the fund’s home market of Hong Kong and surrounding Asian markets. Its only international edition now is in Korea, through a licensing deal with Doosan Group. With its investment in Dazed Media, too, C Ventures would have an avenue to actually produce W. A lack of publishing infrastructure and insight is something that tends to be problematic for vanity buyers with no connection to the industry.
Stefano Tonchi, W’s passionate editor for almost a decade, is also thought to be set to stay on with the magazine after the sale, should it ultimately come to fruition. When the title first went on the market, Tonchi was eager to pull financing together himself to take W independent, as first reported by WWD, but momentum around that as a possibility has died down almost entirely. The rest of W’s relatively small staff, now only a baker’s dozen employed full-time in editorial, would likely come with any deal, as well.
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