OLD MEDIA, NEW MEDIA: The chasm between traditional print businesses and newer digital ones is yawning wider, with the former eager to downsize operations, offload assets and pump up marquee titles, with the latter in aggressive growth mode.
On Friday, Vice Media announced the appointment of Tammy Smulders as president of its fashion group, underscoring the company’s growing investment in the fashion, beauty and luxury market.
Vice Media’s titles include i-D and Garage, and the company said Friday it plans to offer new products across digital, creative, data insights, communications and entertainment that it said “will lead the charge in a new era of how fashion content is produced and distributed.”
Matt Elek, chief executive officer EMEA at Vice, said: “We want to predict the curve of the industry rather than follow it,” and pointed to Smulders background as global managing director at Havas LuxHub.
The Vice announcement comes weeks after Time Inc. revealed as part of an SEC filing that the company is “pursuing divestiture opportunities” with respect to several assets including Time Inc. U.K., home to more than 60 consumer and specialist titles including Wallpaper, InStyle, Marie Claire U.K., Woman and Home, and Horse & Hound.
In the SEC filing, dated Sept. 22, Time also said it was interested in selling a majority stake in Essence, and the Sunset, Coastal Living and Golf brands. The company estimates that those assets represent, in the aggregate, approximately $488 million, or 17 percent, of its total revenues for the 12-month period ended June 30, 2017.
The company said is has not entered into any definitive agreements and that the sale processes “are at different stages.” It said it could announce a transaction as early as the fourth quarter of 2017.
A spokeswoman for Time Inc. declined to comment further on the sale process, and on a report by Sky News that Morgan Stanley is handling the sale of the U.K. division, and that the media giant is already in advanced talks with the private equity firm Epiris. An Epiris spokesman also declined to comment.
Sky said the headline value of a deal for Time Inc U.K., is likely to be in the region of 200 million pounds, although a “substantial” pension deficit could hamper a sale. Epiris’ portfolio includes TGI Fridays restaurants, the Hollywood Bowl Group of bowling alleys and Hotter Shoes, the shoe manufacturer and retailer.
According to its web site, Epiris is seeking investment opportunities for Epiris Fund II, which has the capacity to commit 200 million pounds to any new investment.
If Epiris does buy Time Inc U.K., it will be entering into a fierce marketplace, where digitally driven media companies such as Vice are all fighting to forge editorial and content partnerships with fashion and lifestyle brands that are flush with cash and eager for editorial style advertorials and marketing materials.
Time Inc. U.K. has already been trying to get a piece of the commercial action: Last year it launched Fabled by Marie Claire, a beauty and wellness e-commerce site.
At the same time, it has struggled to extend the brand appeal of other titles: A year ago, the company announced plans to terminate the physical edition of InStyle U.K., and relaunched as a digital-only brand with the December 2016 issue the final one.