Authentic Brands Group didn’t waste any time licensing out its surprise acquisition Sports Illustrated.
ABG, an apparel-focused company that three weeks ago acquired the 65-year-old sports publication for $110 million from magazine publisher Meredith Corp., is farming out operations to The Maven, a publicly traded media distribution company, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The Maven owns subsidiaries HubPages, a member-based platform that pays users for content that generates advertising, and Say Media, a digital advertising company.
The Maven paid ABG $45 million in upfront royalties for Sports Illustrated, putting ABG almost halfway to covering its acquisition cost, and agreed to pay an undisclosed percentage of gross revenue every year through 2029. ABG is also getting a 10 percent stake in The Maven, which amounts to a value of roughly $2 million following a nearly 25 percent spike in Maven shares following the news.
Going forward, The Maven will operate Sports Illustrated exclusively in all of North America, the U.K. and Ireland, as well as Australia and New Zealand. The Maven noted it will be handling all of Sports Illustrated platforms, in print and digital and including the well-known Swimsuit Issue, and any future offshoots, like bookazines and special interest publications, video channels and all future licensing deals, all of which it alluded to in the filing. The company is going to rename the unit Sports Illustrated Media and has named media executive Ross Levinsohn as its new chief executive.
Levinsohn, an investor in The Maven and previously a member of its board, has been on the board of Tribune Publishing (which changed its name to Tronc and back again) since 2013. He most recently spent a year as ceo of Tribune Interactive, a digital focused part of the struggling newspaper publisher. But before that, he was ceo and publisher of the Los Angeles Times during a turbulent time in the paper’s history, more than a decade of extreme staff cuts and a rotating cast of executives put in place by Tribune.
At the start of 2018, Levinsohn was put on unpaid leave after NPR reported on his behavior in the workplace and professional settings, talking with more than two dozen former colleagues and associates and using filings from two sexual harassment lawsuits in which he was named while an executive at other companies. According to NPR, the interviews and the lawsuits, which were settled, accused Levinsohn of “frat boy” antics. The report said he had admitted in sworn testimony to rating the “hotness” of female colleagues at AltaVista, an early search engine where he was a manager for little over a year. Over the course of his 30 years as a media executive, Levinsohn has held positions at HBO, CBS, Fox and Yahoo.
Despite a brief internal investigation by law firm Sidley Austin clearing Levinsohn of wrongdoing while at the L.A. Times, he was moved from the paper to lead Tribune Interactive. That move came in tandem with Tribune’s $500 million sale of the L.A. Times and other California newspapers to medical industry billionaire Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong. When the sale took effect, L.A. Times staffers openly celebrated being out from under Tribune and getting new leadership.