Thai ty­coon buys ‘For­tune’ mag­a­zine for 4.9bn baht

Bangkok Post - - NATIONAL -

>> For­tune mag­a­zine, a found­ing brand of the Time Inc em­pire that started pub­lish­ing right af­ter the US stock mar­ket crash of 1929 and went on to chron­i­cle the rise and fall of the United States’ big­gest com­pa­nies, has been sold to Thai busi­ness­man Chatchaval Jiar­a­vanon for US$150 mil­lion (4.9 bil­lion baht).

Mr Chatchaval, whose fam­ily con­trols the Charoen Pokp­hand agribusi­ness and tele­coms con­glom­er­ate, will ac­quire For­tune as a per­sonal in­vest­ment, ac­cord­ing to the mag­a­zine’s cur­rent owner, Mered­ith Corp. He in­tends to in­crease in­vest­ment in For­tune’s dig­i­tal ca­pa­bil­i­ties, geo­graphic ex­pan­sion and ed­i­to­rial ta­lent, the com­pany said.

Mr Chatchaval is the sec­ond un­ex­pected buyer for a Time Inc ti­tle in re­cent months. In Septem­ber, Mered­ith said it would sell Time mag­a­zine to Marc Be­nioff, the bil­lion­aire chief ex­ec­u­tive of the soft­ware com­pany Sales­force, for about $190 mil­lion.

“This was a great out­come,” Alan Mur­ray, who had been Time Inc’s chief con­tent of­fi­cer and will be­come For­tune’s

chief ex­ec­u­tive, said in an in­ter­view, adding that Mr Chatchaval “has am­bi­tious goals for the mag­a­zine”.

In the state­ment an­nounc­ing the deal, Mr Chatchaval promised to in­vest in tech­nol­ogy and jour­nal­ism at For­tune.

Like all mag­a­zines, For­tune’s print busi­ness has de­clined — ad­ver­tis­ing pages for 2018 are down more than 25% — which prompted the ti­tle to fo­cus on other po­ten­tial ar­eas of growth, specif­i­cally dig­i­tal ad­ver­tis­ing and con­fer­ences. Those busi­nesses now make up about 62% of For­tune’s

nearly $100 mil­lion in an­nual rev­enue, and the mag­a­zine makes about $10 mil­lion in profit when not tak­ing into ac­count in­ter­est, taxes, de­pre­ci­a­tion and amor­ti­sa­tion.

The pur­chase price and Mr Chatchaval’s will­ing­ness to in­vest in the mag­a­zine were key fac­tors in his win­ning bid, Mr Mur­ray said, although the spe­cific amount of ad­di­tional in­vest­ment was not dis­cussed. The mag­a­zine is likely to add to its staff and will con­sider putting a pay­wall on its web­site.

Mered­ith moved quickly af­ter ac­quir­ing Time Inc last year to sell the mag­a­zines that did not fit into its ex­ist­ing sta­ble: glossies cen­tred around home and life­style and geared to­ward fe­male read­ers.

The com­pany an­nounced in March that it was seek­ing a buyer for For­tune, as well as for Time, Money and Sports Il­lus­trated. Although Mered­ith’s de­ci­sion to sell those ti­tles was widely ex­pected, it none­the­less sig­nalled a fur­ther de­cline of the mag­a­zine in­dus­try.

Mr Chatchaval, 56, who will not play any role in man­ag­ing the mag­a­zine, emerged as a suitor for For­tune only within the past three weeks, Mr Mur­ray said. Mered­ith had talked to about a dozen se­ri­ous buy­ers for the mag­a­zine this year.

The deal was reached on Fri­day evening in Hong Kong, where Mr Chatchaval cel­e­brated his ac­qui­si­tion at din­ner with Mr Mur­ray.

For­tune, the sec­ond ti­tle cre­ated by Time founder Henry Luce, has won nu­mer­ous awards over its 88 years. It be­came known for its in-depth fea­tures, which of­ten re­cast a com­pany’s rise or fall as a lively case study.

That a busi­ness­man lit­tle-known out­side his home coun­try in Asia would be­come For­tune’s new owner un­der­scores the wildly shift­ing prospects for the United States’ best-known mag­a­zines. But that was one of the key rea­sons for Mr Chatchaval’s in­ter­est.

“He loves the brand,” Mr Mur­ray said.

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