The company that recently bought Sports Illustrated has found someone to run it: a small media company called Maven.
Authentic Brands Group bought Sports Illustrated from publishing giant Meredith last month. At the time, the companies said Meredith would run the magazine and the SI.com website for at least two years under a licensing deal.
But in a filing Monday, Maven said it has a licensing deal for Sports Illustrated magazine and the website. It says Ross Levinsohn, former publisher of the Los Angeles Times, would be CEO of what will soon be named Sports Illustrated Media.
Maven says its deal runs through 2029 and may be renewed. Terms were not disclosed, but Maven paid $45 million up front.
Authentic Brands and Meredith say it’s not clear when the magazine will be in the hands of its new publisher or how involved, if at all, Meredith might still be.
Meredith had long had the goal of selling titles from its Time Inc. acquisition that didn’t fit its brand. It has already sold Time and Fortune. It said in a statement Monday that the sale process took much longer for Sports Illustrated, and that’s why it agreed to license the media operations.
“From the outset, Meredith Corporation’s goal was to execute a complete and simple asset sale for Sports Illustrated,” Meredith said in a statement. “Meredith’s goal of a completed transaction is achieved.”
Authentic Brands, which specializes in managing fashion, entertainment and sports brands, bought Sports Illustrated for $110 million. It said it saw opportunities to grow the brand in digital, TV and social media, with licensing opportunities in products, original content and live events, including the growing market for sports gambling and video game competitions known as esports. It is responsible for marketing and business development and will do a revenue split with Maven for the parts of the business Maven isn’t licensing.
Authentic Brands also has the right to invest in Maven, a little-known startup that last week bought TheStreet financial site for $16.5 million. Maven’s CEO, Jim Heckman, is a media entrepreneur who has often worked with Levinsohn.
While at the Los Angeles Times, Levinsohn was put on unpaid leave after allegations of sexual harassment. He was cleared of wrongdoing by the company, then called Tronc, that had owned the paper. Levinsohn has also worked at Fox and Yahoo.
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