“Well, we don’t, of course, like most public companies, comment on rumors, I will say. To go on record, there have not been any meaningful conversations between Meredith and Time Inc. since we ceased those discussions back in March of 2013,” the ceo said during UBS’ Global Media & Communications Conference in New York on Tuesday.
The statement contradicts media reports that Meredith had been looking to acquire Time Inc., or make a bid for specific titles owned by the New York-based publisher. Since those flames were fanned late last month, Meredith and Time Inc. analysts have weighed in on the prospects of a deal.
“Interestingly, a transaction between Time and Meredith Corp. almost reached fruition prior to the Time’s spin from Time Warner [in 2013],” said Barry Lucas, an analyst at Gabelli Securities. “It is possible that a Time/Meredith deal could resurface, as we think that Meredith still brings cost savings and other synergies, and has twice attempted to complete a transformational transaction.”
For now, there doesn’t appear to be much to a potential transaction, but one never knows in media.
The speculation kicked off after reports that Time Inc. rejected a $1.4 billion offer to sell the company to former Warner Music Group chief executive officer Edgar Bronfman Jr. and Leonard Blavatnik.
With the buzzards circling Time Inc., Hearst’s name has also been brought up as a potential suitor, which appears to be an even odder thought, as the publisher typically enters into joint-venture agreements when developing a new print property. This is the case with Hearst’s recent announcement to launch a new magazine, “The Pioneer Woman,” with Scripps Network Interactive. It was also the case when Verizon and Hearst bought Complex Media, which just folded its 14-year-old print magazine this month. A Hearst spokeswoman could not be reached for comment Thursday regarding Time Inc.
Still, there still may be a kernel of truth to the old adage: “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”
According to The Wall Street Journal on Thursday, Time Inc. hired Bank of America and Morgan Stanley to help field any offers or interest. A Time Inc. representative replied to that speculative story with the company’s line: “As a matter of policy, Time Inc. does not comment on speculation about such matters.”
Time Inc. is under pressure as it is in the process of evolving its digital business, which includes restructuring its publishing and corporate teams. The upheaval has caused some to wonder if the company would be able to fully evolve its business, which is still weighed down with print-centric titles.
In the fall, Joe Ripp, the chief executive officer who helped transition the company after it went public, stepped aside, handing the reins to Rich Battista, a former TV executive with designs on bringing to life many of Time Inc.’s titles on the small screen, mainly the digital one, in the form of OTT. But digital ad dollars aren’t yet as lucrative as print or television, and there are rumors that Time Inc.’s board is growing weary of its struggles.