Time Inc., the largest magazine publisher in the U.S., is in advanced talks to buy American Express Co.’s publishing arm, including titles such as Food & Wine and Travel + Leisure, according to an executive with direct knowledge of the plans.
The discussions could still fall apart, according to the person, who was speaking without authorization to talk publicly about the sale and asked not to be identified. The person didn’t say what price the companies were negotiating.
If the acquisition goes through, Time Inc. would also add Departures, Black Ink and Executive Travel to its roster of 21 titles. The company is preparing to spin off from parent Time Warner Inc. in the first quarter of 2014.
Time Warner Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Bewkes announced plans in March to separate the magazine unit -- the company’s worst-performing division -- after a failed effort to create a joint venture with Meredith Corp., publisher of women’s titles such as Ladies’ Home Journal.
In July, Bewkes named Joseph Ripp CEO of Time Inc. after a four-month search.
“We have to reignite the spark at Time Inc.,” Ripp said in an interview at the time. “There are lots of challenges, and we need to identify the things we need to stop doing and identify areas for growth.”
As a public company, projections for Time Inc.’s enterprise value -- or the sum of its equity and debt minus cash -- range from $2.7 billion to about $4.9 billion, according to six analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg in July.
The New York Post reported earlier yesterday that Time Inc. was in talks to pay less than $100 million for the American Express publications.
Jane Lehman, a spokeswoman for Time Inc., declined to comment on the talks. Marina Norville, a spokeswoman for American Express, didn’t return calls and e-mails seeking comment.
Time Warner shares rose 1.3 percent to $62.24 at the close in New York yesterday, taking their gain for the year to 30 percent.