Time Inc. Calls Off Sale Talks, Vows to Execute on Strategic Plan

Time Inc. is going it alone, for now.

The company’s board of directors has called off discussions with potential suitors and has vowed to continue solo under the leadership of CEO Rich Battista (pictured above), it announced Friday.

In pre-market trading, Time Inc. stock fell more than 19% on the news, down from the stock’s Thursday closing price of $18.30 per share. In the last several months, shares have climbed sharply on the M&A rumors.

Part of Time Inc.’s stated strategic plan includes “continued aggressive re-engineering of the cost structure of the company” — indicating layoffs are in the offing.

Time Inc., owner of marquee magazine brands including Time, People, Sports Illustrated and Fortune, had accepted initial bids from a handful of companies in February. Those were known to have included magazine and TV station owner Meredith Corp. and an investor group led by Edgar Bronfman Jr. Verizon also was rumored to be in the mix as part of a bid for Time Inc.

“We strongly believe in the future and potential of this company,” John Fahey, Time Inc.’s lead independent director, said in a statement. “The board has full confidence in Time Inc. president and CEO Rich Battista and the management team to execute on the strategic plan.”

The company reaffirmed its investor guidance for 2017, and plans to announce first-quarter earnings on May 10 before market open. Time Inc. has had a rocky time as a publicly traded company since it was spun off from Time Warner in June 2014.

Under Battista, Time Inc. has mounted a big push to mine its print resources to develop TV programs and digital-video content. That has included the launch of the People/Entertainment Weekly Network (PEN), a free, over-the-top service stocked with original series, mag-related features, and live event coverage.

Battista, a former Fox cable TV exec and ex-CEO of Mandalay Sports Media, also has restructured Time Inc.’s sales organization with the aim of achieving an integrated go-to-market approach spanning multiple brands.

“Time Inc. is a reinvigorated company uniquely positioned to succeed in the multiplatform media marketplace with an exceptional set of brands and assets, tremendous scale and significant untapped potential,” said Battista, who was elevated to the president-CEO role last September after former chief Joe Ripp stepped down for health reasons.

While Time Inc. now has rejected the takeover overtures, Battista added that “our transformation has brought a number of potential partners interested in working with us to unlock and accelerate value across our portfolio of brands.”

Time Inc.’s board last fall was said to have turned down a $1.8 billion buyout offer from an investor group comprising Len Blavatnik, Edgar Bronfman Jr., and ex-Maker Studios CEO Ynon Kreiz. According to reports, the company felt the $18-per-share bid was too low.

In the past year, Time Inc. has seen sales shrink but it’s shored up its losses. For full-year 2016, the company reported $3.08 billion in revenue, down 0.9%, and a net loss of $48 million (versus a net loss of $881 million the year prior). While print ad, subscription and newsstand sales dropped, digital ad revenue climbed 55% for the year, to $512 million.

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