Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Laurene Powell Jobs Is in Talks for a Stake in BuzzFeed News

Updated on
  • Apple co-founder’s widow also has interests in Atlantic, Axios
  • BuzzFeed cut 100 jobs in November after missing sales targets

BuzzFeed News Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith has had discussions about a potential investment from Laurene Powell Jobs’s Emerson Collective LLC, according to people familiar with the matter, in what would be the latest bet on the struggling publishing industry by the widow of Apple Inc.’s co-founder.

The negotiations are at an early stage and only involve BuzzFeed Inc.’s news unit, led by Smith, not the broader company, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private.

BuzzFeed separated its news and entertainment divisions in 2016 as part of a reorganization. While the news unit employs dozens of journalists, the entertainment team creates the more lucrative non-news content, like Tasty food videos, as well as videos and posts specifically for advertisers.

The whole company was valued at $1.7 billion in November 2016 after a second $200 million investment from Comcast Corp.’s NBCUniversal.

The talks with BuzzFeed News were reported earlier Thursday by the Financial Times. Powell Jobs is worth about $19.3 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Online publishers have struggled as Facebook Inc. and Google vacuum up the majority of online advertising. BuzzFeed and other outlets may see their audiences decline when Facebook retools its News Feed and de-emphasizes their posts. In November, BuzzFeed cut about 100 jobs, or 8 percent of its U.S. workforce, after missing its revenue target for 2017.

Through Emerson, Powell Jobs has focused on philanthropy, socially conscious investing, and media, including funding for Anonymous Content, a talent-management company behind the films “The Revenant” and “Spotlight,” and Within, a virtual-reality entertainment startup.

In July, Emerson agreed to acquire a majority stake in the Atlantic, the iconic political and cultural magazine. Emerson also owns a stake in Axios, a media startup led by Politico’s founders.

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