Sports Illustrated

Meredith Corp. is suing Sports Illustrated publisher Maven Inc., claiming that it owes more than $1 million in unpaid fees.

People and InStyle owner Meredith sold the iconic sports title in 2019 to apparel-focused Authentic Brands Group for $110 million. That deal allowed Meredith to continue to operate the magazine and web site for at least two years, but just three weeks later, there was another change as ABG farmed out operations to Seattle-based tech firm Maven in a $45 million licensing agreement.

In the suit filed Monday, Meredith alleged it came to an agreement with Maven that it would carry out services necessary to publish Sports Illustrated without interruption during the transition. This included housing its team, human resources, digital sales support and information technology and consumer marketing.

But it claimed that Maven did not make the payments on the dates agreed or dispute them in the time allowed by the contract. Meredith then wrote to Maven in late April giving them 30 days notice that they were terminating the agreement and also informing them that they were liable for the missed payments. It alleged that Maven responded in May and attempted to “belatedly” dispute the costs.

Meredith said it spent months “attempting to work with Maven in good faith to arrange for payment of its outstanding obligations,” and agreed to extend the termination date to accommodate the Seattle-based publisher. But “instead of paying its full obligations or agreeing to a payment plan, Maven stalled and has refused to make full and timely payment as required.”

Meredith terminated its contract on July 14 and now wants to be paid the outstanding balance of just over $1 million plus a late payment interest charge of 10 percent per annum accruing from the due date of each invoice. It also requested that its legal costs and other fees be covered.

A spokesman for Maven said: “Meredith’s complaint does not tell the whole story. Indeed, some weeks ago, Maven informed Meredith that Maven believes Meredith materially misrepresented financial, audience and subscription data, when transferring the Sports Illustrated business to Maven, leading to at least $10 million of costs that Maven would have never otherwise agreed to  or incurred.” He added that Maven “welcomes the opportunity to make its case in court.”

A Meredith rep said: “It’s a simple matter. Meredith always honors the terms of our contracts and we expect the same from our partners, as any business would.”

The legal drama comes not long after The Daily Beast reported that ABG is examining Maven’s rights under the license to operate Sports Illustrated, potentially taking it back.

There have been a number of issues between staffers and Maven since it acquired publishing rights, beginning when it wasted no time making cuts, instructing Meredith to lay off more than 40 staffers as part of the sale — a move employees said at the time puts the future of the publication at risk. It made further cuts in March due to the pandemic and in April fired Grant Wahl, a prominent soccer writer.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated to include the stance of Maven after its initial publication.

For more, see:

Sports Illustrated Staffers Become Latest to Try to Unionize

Sports Illustrated Publisher Maven Receives $5.7M Federal Loan

Ousted Sports Illustrated Journalist and Publisher Both Address Firing

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