National Enquirer Parent Buys Us Weekly From Rolling Stone OwnerBy
Celebrity magazine saw newsstand sales fall in recent years
Wenner saddled with debt after buying back Us Weekly stake
American Media Inc. agreed to buy Us Weekly from Wenner Media LLC, adding to a stable of tabloids and celebrity gossip magazines that includes National Enquirer and Star.
The deal is valued at $100 million, according to a person familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified discussing private information. Wenner Media’s remaining titles include Rolling Stone and Men’s Journal.
Us Weekly, founded in 1977, is one of the largest magazines in the country, with a print circulation of 1.95 million. Yet it has struggled in recent years as celebrity news became widely available online. Us Weekly’s newsstand sales fell 27 percent last year, according to MagNet, which tracks that data. U.S. traffic to Us Weekly’s website dropped 28 percent from July 2015 to January of this year, according to comScore.
The celebrity-centric magazine was acquired by Wenner Media in 1985. In 2001, Wenner Media sold a 50 percent stake in Us Weekly to Walt Disney Co. for $40 million. Wenner, which also publishes Rolling Stone and Men’s Journal, borrowed money to buy back the stake in 2006 for $300 million and is still paying off the debt.
Us Weekly was a big part of Wenner Media’s sales, making up nearly 70 percent of the company’s $330 million in annual revenue in the period ending June 2016, according to Moody’s.
Publisher Jann Wenner, who started Rolling Stone in a San Francisco warehouse in 1967, has been looking for ways to keep his magazines relevant to a generation more apt to read articles on smartphones and tablets than in print. Last year, Wenner Media sold a 49 percent stake in Rolling Stone to a Singapore-based digital music company.
In 2014, he put his son Gus Wenner in charge of the company’s digital strategy. Wenner Media recently announced the creation of Glixel, a digital-only publication that covers video games.