Jones’ Vibe takes Spin

NEW YORK — Quincy Jones’ Vibe Ventures agreed to acquire Bob Guccione Jr.’s Spin magazine for $42 million in cash, the two sides said Wednesday.

The acquisition could be the first step in an expansion by Vibe and its backers further into magazines, according to Robert Miller, one of the partners in Vibe.

The deal will be partly financed with new equity contributed by investment firm Freeman Spogli & Co. Miller said Freeman Spogli was keen to “invest significantly greater amounts of money and so we will continue to look” for other magazine properties either through Vibe or outside the partnership.

Vibe Ventures was formed a year ago by Jones, TV producer David Salzman and Miller to buy Vibe magazine from Time Inc.’s Ventures division. Miller had been running the division until that point but quit when Time relocated the group from Los Angeles to New York last year.

As well as equity from Freeman Spogli, Miller said Salomon Bros. also was arranging bank debt to finance the deal. He declined comment about the price but did not dispute it.

At $42 million, the price appears to be in line with the industry standard of about 10 times future earnings as Guccione said Spin would earn $4 million-$5 million in 1998, double what it will earn this year.

“It’s a good price,” Guccione said, adding that Spin was “on an upward curve.” Since he started the mag in 1985 — along with former Warner Communications president David Horowitz and investor Stephen Swid — its circulation has climbed to 500,000 and it turned profitable in 1994, Guccione said.

Vibe sells about 450,000 copies, although it is believed to be a little more profitable. Miller said advertisers “have been very eager to speak to this so-called Generation X audience” and he estimated advertising revenue in this segment of the magazine market had grown 40% a year in the past few years.

Spin and Vibe both are music magazines but have little editorial overlap because Vibe focuses on urban culture, mainly rap, while Spin is a more traditional rock ‘n’ roll mag, Miller said.

The sale crystallizes a huge profit for Spin’s founders. Guccione said he invested $65,000 in the magazine and will walk away with $16.5 million.

Guccione said he “absolutely” plans to stay in magazines, adding that he and an investment bank were “looking for targets” for acquisition.

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