PMC will invest in Wenner Media at a valuation just over $100 million, according to sources close to the transaction. BandLab, a Singapore-based company that acquired a 49% share of the magazine, will retain its stake.
Jann Wenner, who co-founded Rolling Stone in 1967 as a countercultural voice that went on to transcend the world of rock ‘n’ roll, will remain with Rolling Stone as editorial director, continuing to guide strategy for the brand.
“I am so proud of our accomplishments over the past 50 years and know Penske Media is the ideal match for us to thrive in today’s media landscape,” said Wenner in a statement.
As part of the deal, Wenner Media will retain “majority control and editorial oversight” of Rolling Stone, according to the press release.
“We have such a unique and special product in Rolling Stone, and we are excited to build on its strong foundation and invest in its future through this partnership,” said Gus Wenner, who will stay on as well as president/COO of Wenner Media.
The investment has been finalized and the transition to the Penske Media platform is expected to occur over the next six months. PMC emerged from a collection of bidders that reportedly looked to purchase the direct Rolling Stone stake including an investor group led by Azoff MSG Entertainment CEO Irving Azoff; Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan, Playboy magazine owner Rizvi Travers and former Guggenheim Partners president Todd Boehly.
Since its birth as a print publication that practically defined rock ‘n’ roll and leading artists from The Beatles to Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stone has transformed itself into a multimedia brand that also covers other worlds from politics to Hollywood with hard-hitting journalism. A two-part HBO documentary, “Rolling Stone: Stories From the Edge,” celebrated the publication’s 50th anniversary last month.
But the magazine brand has faced challenges in recent years as Wenner Media was overladen with debt after buying back a stake in Us Weekly for $300 million in 2006. That brand has since been sold off, as well as other Wenner titles including Men’s Journal, paving the way for the Wenner family and PMC to reinvest in the brand.
PMC will look to revitalize everything from Rolling Stone’s digital operations to its event business. The Wenner stake represents the largest acquisition yet for PMC founder and CEO Jay Penske, who has rapidly grown a portfolio in recent years that includes Robb Report, Conde Nast’s Fairchild Fashion Media unit (the parent company of business-to-business brands including Women’s Wear Daily) and Indiewire. PMC is the parent company of Variety, which Penske acquired in 2012.
“Our interest in Rolling Stone is driven by its people, its cultural significance, and the globally-recognized brand that has no peer in its areas of influence,” said Penske. “We believe that Penske Media is uniquely qualified to partner with the Wenners to ensure the brand continues to ascend for decades across multiple media platforms—we’re eager to get started.”
The purchase continues PMC’s expansion in the entertainment content and news businesses. Rolling Stone will continue to be based in New York, but is expected to move out of its current home to PMC’s Manhattan headquarters sometime next year.
The deal comes as the music business where Rolling Stone made its name is undergoing a rejuvenation after years of struggles to adapt to the digital era. Record labels are recovering as streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music pave new paths to monetization. The global recorded music industry is expected to grow to $41 billion by 2030, according to a Goldman Sachs analysis in September, $34 billion of which will come from streaming revenues.