Published: Sat, December 23, 2017
Industry | By Faith Ward

Variety owner buys Rolling Stone


PMC chief Jay Penske has closed a major deal to acquire a controlling interest in Wenner Media, the parent company of the venerable rock music bible Rolling Stone.

BandLabs Technologies, the Singapore-based company that bought 49 percent of Rolling Stone past year, had a right of first refusal for any offer for the rest of the magazine, according to people familiar with the sale process.

Under the deal, New York-based Wenner Media will maintain editorial oversight of Rolling Stone, which will remain an independent authority on USA pop culture and political coverage, the companies said in a statement.

Transaction details were announced today, three months after publisher Jann Wenner revealed plans to sell the controlling stake of the music and literary institution he co-founded half a century ago.

In addition to Variety, Penske's other assets include the online news site Deadline, Robb Report and IndieWire.

It is the biggest investment in a single title that PMC has made, and rivals the amount paid for Fairchild Publications and its titles that include Women's Wear Daily.

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Well before that stain on its reputation, however, Rolling Stone suffered significant growing pains in adapting to the digital era.

"There's been a lot of speculation and we can't comment on that that, but as the 49% holder in the business, it was very important to us that Rolling Stone was in good hands", he was quoted as saying. Regardless, Wenner's print business flourished with the portfolio he had cultivated: Rolling Stone, Men's Journal and US Weekly.

Wenner rocketed into the celebrity world that had long enchanted him. "This will allow us to do that in a way we haven't been able to over the last couple of years". That price surprised some people who had looked at the deal earlier in the year, and valued the stake in the $30 million to $40 million range. Penske Media was represented by Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP.

Second, his refusal to offload Rolling Stone at the height of its value a few years later, around 2008.

Updated, 11:45 a.m., December 21 with details of a settlement reached over Rolling Stone's misreporting on a story of rape at the University of Virginia.

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