Conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch cemented a deal on Sunday to buy a $650 million stake in Time Inc., through The Meredith Corporation—a rival publisher whose holdings include Family Circle, Better Homes and Gardens, Shape, and AllRecipes.
Rumors of the deal circulated on social media Sunday morning, it was confirmed on Sunday evening by a Meredith Corporation press release. The Iowa-based company bought Time Inc. for $2.8 billion with Koch Equity Development providing $650 million in preferred equity, according to The Financial Times.
Meredith said in its announcement that the Koch brothers would “have no influence on Meredith’s editorial or managerial operations.” Given the Koch brothers’ history of pouring money into conservative causes, including climate change denial and the repeal of net neutrality, Meredith’s editorial assurances seem, at best, dubious. Here’s how The New York Times described Charles and David’s interest in Time Inc.:
Some Koch allies have suggested that the brothers would view their investment purely as a moneymaking opportunity. But others familiar with the Kochs’ thinking speculated that they intend to use the media properties — which reach millions of online and print readers — to promote their brand of conservatism. The investment would also give the Kochs a way to combine the arsenal of voter information held by a data analytics company controlled by their network, i360, with the publishers’ consumer data.
Charles and David previously explored a bid to purchase The Tribune Company, which publishes eight newspapers—including The Los Angeles Times and The Chicago Tribune.
Time Inc., which publishes Time, Sports Illustrated, People, Essence, and Fortune (to name a few), struggled with revenue and debt before its board unanimously approved the sale to Meredith.
In an email to employees, Time Inc. CEO Rich Battista said that Meredith would provide “financial flexibility” and encourage growth. “Scale matters and will enable the enterprise to compete more effectively in this dynamic media landscape, enhancing the enormous, exciting potential of our brands,” Battista said.