Penske Media Corp. still has an appetite for acquisitions.
The media company, owned and operated by Jay Penske, is acquiring ARTnews and Art in America, founded in 1902 and 1913, respectively. The price is said to be between $20 million and $25 million.
Both publications are some of the only notable remaining properties of Peter Brant, who acquired the titles in 2016 for an undisclosed sum from private management firm Skate Capital, owned by Sergey Skaterschikov, along with other titles in the holding company Artnews SA. Those include magazines Antiques and Modern, which are included in PMC’s acquisition. PMC is also the parent of WWD, which it acquired in 2014.
The deal is the latest for Penske, who has cut several over the last year. At the end of December came a majority investment in Rolling Stone, followed a few months later by the acquisition of SheKnows Media and in July an investment in BuzzAngle Music. Early this year, PMC also got a $200 million investment from Public Investment Fund, the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia. Penske maintains 60 percent of his company. PIF has invested heavily in American and international companies, and recently more tech start-ups, in an effort to move its economy away from oil, but the fund has come under increased scrutiny with the apparent murder last month of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in a Saudi consulate.
With the purchase of the art titles, Penske has brands at the top of a glamorous and rarefied industry, which sits well next to brands like WWD, Variety and Rolling Stone, which cover fashion, entertainment and music and politics, respectively.
“To welcome these fine publications whose editorial heritage I have long admired is not only a remarkable opportunity, but also a great honor,” Penske said in a statement. “This purchase continues PMC’s strategy of investing in businesses with great vertical depth and we plan to rapidly build upon their editorial foundation while extending their presence across the web, video and international markets.”
In a memo on the acquisition, PMC noted art media has a “significantly fragmented audience” and that the company “sees the opportunity to augment these exceptional brands with further investments in content and editorial, complemented by robust data and analytic tools.” The company alluded to future development of a live media and event business for the brands, which is also being developed at Rolling Stone, while other PMC brands are better established in these areas.
Victoria Duffy Hopper, chief executive officer of Art Media Holdings, noted Penske’s acquisition of other legacy media brands over the years and said “it’s clear that PMC sets the gold standard” for reaching their potential. It’s unclear what role Hopper will have with the publications going forward, but PMC isn’t currently planning any major changes to staff.
“These publications are guideposts to our world’s art history, and our own American culture,” Peter Brant said. “I am very confident that Jay Penske and Penske Media are the right owners for their next many decades.”
As for Brant, currently chairman of Art Media, he is not set to have any involvement with the titles going forward. Penske will fully absorb the magazines and effectively become chairman.
The sale marks the end of Brant’s direct operation in media, which he’s been involved in to varying degrees for decades. Until recently, his best known property was Interview magazine, but Brant forced the 50-year old magazine into bankruptcy in an apparent plan to escape more than $3 million in debts to various freelancers and agencies. Through the wonders of corporate bankruptcy, Brant was able to repurchase Interview, debt-free, and the magazine has since relaunched under the full control of Kelly Brant, Interview’s president and Brant’s eldest daughter.
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