Forbes magazine sold to Hong Kong investment firm

23 July 2014   Category: News, Asia, Global, Hong Kong, USA   By Derek Au

The Forbes family has agreed to sell a controlling stake in its media empire to a newly formed, Hong Kong-based investment group for an undisclosed fee.

Integrated Whale Media Investments (IWMI) will buy a majority stake in Forbes Media, whose brand reaches about 75 million people worldwide each month through channels including print, digital, TV, conferences, and mobile.

The Forbes family will retain a significant ownership stake in the company and will work with the new investors to further increase the market share of the existing product lines, Forbes Media said in a statement.

Steve Forbes will maintain his role as the chairman and editor-in-chief, while chief executive officer Mike Perlis will also stay on. Forbes Media’s Asian business will continue to be run out of Singapore under Asia Chief Executive Officer Will Adamopoulos. Forbes Media will retain its name and remain a privately-held, US-based company.

IWMI is led by Hong Kong-based Integrated Asset Management (Asia) Limited, founded by Tak Cheung Yam, with expertise in telecommunications, finance and technology. Wayne Hsieh, co-founder of Asustek Computers, is also a significant investor in IWMI.

According to the statement, besides providing capital and expertise, the investor group will also look to enlarge Forbes Media’s global presence. Elevation Partners, a private equity firm whose founders include pop star Bono, will fully exit its investment in Forbes Media after the transaction is completed.

One person familiar with the deal told Reuters that the transaction was worth about US$475 million.

Commenting on the transaction, Mr. Forbes said: “This is a major milestone for the company and our family, and we’re pleased to partner with a forward-looking investor group to further drive the evolution and growth of this exceptional company.” He added that he would remain involved in the future of the company.

Mr. Yam added: “We are investing in the Forbes brand, history, family involvement and a management team that is successfully transforming the company. Forbes Media is built around a brand that is synonymous with success and a mission that has tremendous respect and global appeal in established and growing markets around the world. As more market-based economies emerge globally, interest in the information that Forbes provides and the message it delivers resonates with a growing audience.”

In a separate announcement posted on the company website, Mr. Forbes said that the impact of the internet on the traditional publishing business had influenced his decision when it came to the transaction. “The web has blasted away the operating model for the communications industry that began back in the 1830s with the invention of the steam press,” he claimed.

He added that he believed the emergence of the internet now meant that “content is free, like bread and water at restaurants”, and that the “creative destruction” wrought by the internet was just the beginning.

The transaction will rapidly expand the extension of the Forbes brand into areas such as education, financial services, real estate and technology licence agreements. Last year, a Filipino property developer announced it would licence the Forbes brand for a commercial real estate project in Manila.

Forbes Media is the publisher of Forbes, Forbes Asia and ForbesLife magazines and Forbes.com. In the US, the iconic Forbes magazine has a readership to more than 6 million. Forbes has 36 licensed local editions around the world, covering 63 countries in 21 different languages.