Sports Illustrated brand sold for $110 million

This most iconic brand of sports media sold twice in one year

Meredith Corporation, which acquired Sports Illustrated last year, has sold the magazine’s marketing rights to Authentic Brands Group for $110 million.

Authentic Brands Group (ABG), a global brand development, marketing and entertainment company, has announced that it has finalized the purchase of the intellectual property of Sports Illustrated from Meredith Corporation, the leading media and marketing company reaching 175 million US consumers each month via print, digital, mobile, video, social and broadcast television platforms.

Through this acquisition, ABG forges a strategic partnership with diversified media powerhouse Meredith to build a global platform that converges the worlds of sports, culture and entertainment. ABG assumes the marketing, business development and licensing functions for the Sports Illustrated intellectual property and brand, while the print magazine and will maintain editorial independence and continue to operate under the leadership of Meredith and Editor-in-Chief Chris Stone and Publisher Danny Lee.

“We are delighted to find a great home for Sports Illustrated with ABG, one of the world’s premier brand owners and licensors,” said Jon Werther, President, Meredith National Media Group. “Additionally, we are excited about the opportunity to fully integrate Sports Illustrated’s print and digital products into Meredith’s operations. We believe our proven expertise in content creation and sales and marketing will greatly enhance the vitality and profitability of these channels.”

This transformative acquisition adds a new vertical to ABG’s growing platform and portfolio, which currently generates over $9.3 billion in global retail sales annually.

“We are honoured to welcome Sports Illustrated to the ABG family,” said Jamie Salter, Founder, Chairman and CEO of ABG. “As one of the most iconic brands in sports media, SI is a cultural centrepiece with massive opportunities for growth across its burgeoning digital, TV and social platforms and industry-leading print magazine. SI’s trusted name and fiercely devoted following set the stage for the brand to become a leader in lifestyle and entertainment.”

As the most-read sports magazine in the world, Sports Illustrated is an undisputed leader in journalism with a total audience of more than 120 million consumers. Its enterprise includes a fastest-growing top 10 sports website, storied print magazine, rising TV and digital platform, Emmy award-winning digital innovation and enduring franchises including Sports Illustrated Swimsuit and the nationally televised Sportsperson of the Year award ceremony.

The print magazine has shaped the narrative around sports culture over the last six decades, publishing thousands of covers featuring the world’s most disruptive professional athletes including Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, Serena Williams and Tiger Woods, as well as influential sports teams, celebrities and political figures.

“Sports have a remarkable way of bringing people together regardless of gender, race or socioeconomic status, the experiences shared by sports fans around the world are unifying and indelible,” said Nick Woodhouse, President and CMO of ABG. “As a trailblazer and cultural phenomenon, Sports Illustrated has created moments and experiences for its readers that are unmatched by any other sports brand. We look forward to working with Meredith to extend Sports Illustrated’s legacy and connect the brand with new audiences around the world.”

“We’re thrilled that Authentic Brands Group and Meredith share the vision of SI management to build a premium sports platform,” said Chris Stone, Editor-in-Chief of Sports Illustrated. “In addition to continuing to produce independent, award-winning journalism and storytelling—what Jamie Salter has described as the heart of SI—we are now perfectly positioned, with the support and resources of ABG, to thrive in many other spaces: events and conferences, licensing, gambling and gaming, IP development, especially in video and TV, to name a few, all while continuing to benefit from Meredith’s industry-leading track record in operating media companies.”

“This strategic partnership brings a new approach to media brand development, and we’re excited to leverage Meredith and ABG’s respective strengths to enhance and build upon Sports Illustrated’s undeniable value,” said John Zieser, Chief Development Officer of Meredith. “We will also combine our world-class media platform and consumer audience with ABG’s brand development, marketing and licensing expertise to develop other media-driven opportunities across the company’s portfolio.”

As part of the deal, ABG has also acquires the rights to over 2 million iconic images from Sports Illustrated’s archive of owned photography.

Meredith is using the transaction proceeds to pay down debt. With the sale of Sports Illustrated, Meredith will have paid approximately $900 million of debt by June 30, 2019. Meredith intends to pay another $100 million in debt in the first quarter of its fiscal 2020 (ending September 30, 2019) after completing the sale of FanSided and Viant to reach its stated goal of $1 billion of debt pay down.