Thai tycoon buys ‘Fortune’ magazine for 4.9bn baht
>> 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.