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Forbes sells majority stake to Hong Kong-based investor group


Forbes Media LLC has inked an agreement to sell majority stake in the company to a Hong Kong-based investor group Integrated Whale Media Investments led by Integrated Asset Management (Asia) Limited. Asus co-founder Wayne Hsieh is also a significant investor in this group.

While the deal size was not disclosed, The Wall Street Journal cites sources to peg the price at more than $300 million, valuing the company at $475 million.

As per the agreement, the Forbes family will continue to own “significant stake” and will stay “actively involved in Forbes Media”. The family will apparently work with the investor group to increase the market share of the existing Forbes Media products in media, digital, technology segments as well as brand extensions.

This investor group will provide capital, financial and operational expertise and intends to use its international relationships to improve Forbes Media’s reach globally.

The company will continue to retain its operating name and the current management team which includes chairman & editor-in-chief Steve Forbes and CEO Mike Perlis will remain unchanged. Forbes Media’s Asia business will also continue to be headed by Will Adamopoulos based out of Singapore.

Investor Elevation Partners is however exiting the company following this transaction. Elevation Partners had previously invested $265 million for a 45% stake in Forbes way back in 2006, however it had subsequently wrote down more than 75% of its investment, as indicated by a Fortune report.

The group’s flagship magazine has been struggling to maintain its readership in recent times with advertisers and readers alike shifting to digital media. The magazine’s ad revenue was reportedly down 5% while the ad pages was down by 10% in 2013.

Forbes Media has been looking for a buyer since November last year and was seeking at least $400 million. However, several reports had suggested that this was a significant high price tag and even Elevation Partners was holding its stake at a much lower cost. Last year,  Time Inc had reportedly offered around $175 million to buy Forbes, however Forbes passed on the offer. So, it’s quite interesting that Forbes was able to find a buyer at this price.

Forbes in India

Forbes had struck a deal with Network18 to launch Forbes India in December 2007, following which an editorial team, under Indrajit Gupta, was put together in early 2008. After rather long wait for approvals, the magazine was launched in May 2009.

While the magazine has a website, we had noticed that more and more content from Forbes India was being integrated with (or replicated on) FirstPost recently. Last May, the top editorial team of Forbes India – Editor Indrajit Gupta, Managing Editor Charles Assisi, Executive Editor Shishir Prasad and Director of Photography Dinesh Krishnan – were also asked to leave the magazine.

From what we had heard from sources, this was largely down to issues relating to stock options given when Forbes India was founded, which vested after a four year time frame. However, speaking with MediaNama, Network18’s then COO Ajay Chacko had said that this move was a part of the overall restructuring that happened when R. Jagannathan (Jaggi) who, after building FirstPost, took over as Editor-in-Chief of Network18′s Web & Publishing Division a couple of months ago.

Few months later, Network18′s IPO-bound online retailer store HomeShop18 had also started offering its products on the last page of Forbes India’s e-magazine.

Earlier in May this year, Reliance Industries had acquired Network18. A detailed timeline of events here. All of our Reliance-Network18 coverage here.

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