SBJ/September 11 - 17, 2006/This Weeks News

SBJ parent buys Sporting News

American City Business Journals Inc., parent company of SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily, last week agreed to purchase Sporting News magazine and its related assets from the Paul Allen-owned Vulcan Sports Media Inc.

The 120-year-old magazine has
been formally up for sale since February.
The deal, set to close next month, includes the 120-year-old print publication, sportingnews.com, the Sporting News book publishing unit and Sporting News Radio Network.

The purchase ends a long period of uncertainty for Sporting News, as it has been formally up for sale since February and unofficially since last year. Despite having one of the most venerable brand names in the sports media industry, the company struggled with profitability and saw ESPN The Magazine race by it to become the nation’s second-largest general sports magazine by circulation behind Sports Illustrated.

Ray Shaw, ACBJ chairman and chief executive, said he expects Sporting News to operate largely as a separate unit within ACBJ. It is possible, however, that combined ad buys would be sold across Sporting News and ACBJ’s NASCAR Scene and NASCAR Illustrated publications.

No decisions have been made on whether Sporting News’ St. Louis headquarters will be moved to the ACBJ offices in Charlotte and New York. Of Sporting News’ 200 employees, 76 are in St. Louis.

“This is an opportunistic acquisition we think has a great deal of upside,” Shaw said. “This is one of the great brands in sports media.”

ACBJ was one of several suitors for the company, said Sporting News chief executive Rick Allen (no relation to Paul Allen), with that group featuring a broad mix of media operations and private equity companies.

Sportingnews.com is included in the sale.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, though industry speculation centered on the price being well below the $100 million that Paul Allen paid for the Sporting News print operation in early 2000. The company’s radio operations were added to Vulcan through a late 2000 purchase of One-on-One Sports, and interests in fantasy sports arrived with the 2001 acquisition of Small World Sports.

Rick Allen will remain in his post, as will editor John Rawlings. What is less certain is how history will ultimately judge the Paul Allen era of the magazine’s history, during which a frenetic series of acquisitions, editorial revampings and design changes failed to create a sizable step forward for the company.

“That’s tough to say. I’m not a historian,” Rick Allen said. “What I do know is that Paul’s been an absolute pleasure to deal with, he was a capable and understanding owner, and we’re now entering a perfect place with someone who understands the sports media space as well as anyone.”

How sports titles stack up
 
Ad revenue, 000s (change)*
No. of ad pages (change)*
Circulation avg.**
Web traffic, 000s (change)^
Sports Illustrated $345,827 (+0.9%) 1,134.5 (-0.8%) 3.2 million 6,535 (+5.7%)
ESPN $149,306 (-5.5%) 832.8 (-10.4%) 2.0 million 15,227 (+23.7%)
Sporting News $23,108 (+2.1%) 415.0 (-1.4%) 706,964 696 (+24.1%)
* Jan.-July 2006 vs. same period, 2005. ** Jan.-June 2006
^ No. of unique U.S. visitors in July 2006 vs. July 2005
Sources: Publishers Information Bureau, Audit Bureau of Circulations, Nielsen/NetRatings
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