The deal, subject to regulatory approval, is expected to close by the end of 2018. The sale of the 88-year-old Fortune brand comes after Meredith on Oct. 31 closed on the sale of Time to Salesforce founder Marc Benioff and his wife, Lynne Benioff, for $190 million.
Alan Murray, formerly chief content officer of Time Inc., will become president and CEO of Fortune. Clifton Leaf will continue as editor-in-chief. Under the new ownership, Fortune will continue to be based in New York City and the group is seeking new office space.
Currently, 170 employees are associated with Fortune. According to Murray, the full staff will be coming over in the transition to the newly established Jiaravanon-owned Fortune Media Group Holdings Ltd. Murray told Variety he was introduced to Jiaravanon through a mutual acquaintance: Bob Nardelli, former CEO of Chrysler and Home Depot. The deal came together in 21 days, Murray said.
“He’s a very charming man,” Murray said about Jiaravanon. “He cares a lot about the Fortune brand, and believes it can be a bigger global media brand than it is today.” Specifically, the Thai business mogul is interested in building up Fortune’s Hong Kong office. “He’s very interested in the China part of the business,” Murray said.
After Meredith closed its $1.85 billion acquisition of Time Inc. in January, the company said it would sell Time Inc.’s news and sports brands — Time, Sports Illustrated, Fortune and Money — as well as its investment in ad-tech company Viant Technology to focus on lifestyle and entertainment brands like People and Entertainment Weekly catering to its core audience of American women. Meredith said it expects to announce deals for SI and Money soon.
Fortune was founded in 1930 at the beginning of the Great Depression. Since then Fortune has evolved from a traditional print mag into a global multiplatform, multimedia business that includes the monthly magazine with multiple international editions; a digital news and video platform that reaches an average monthly audience of nearly 20 million; and a live-event series. Its major franchise is the Fortune 500 annual ranking of the U.S.’s biggest companies.
Jiaravanon is affiliated with Bangkok-based Charoen Pokphand Group, an international conglomerate with businesses in telecom and media; agro-food; retail and distribution; e-commerce and digital; property development; automotive and industrials; finance and investment; and pharmaceutical sectors. Owned by the Chearavanont/Jiaravanon family, the C.P. Group operates public companies such as CP Foods, CP ALL and True Corp., along with multiple private firms.
Jiaravanon is involved in C.P. Group’s technology, media and telecom businesses. He serves as a board member of telecom and cable TV provider True Corp., which holds more than $10 billion in assets, generates $4 billion in annual revenue and has 23,000 employees.
Jiaravanon will own Fortune as a personal private investment independent of C.P. Group’s family businesses. He intends to increase investment in Fortune‘s digital capabilities, geographic expansion, and editorial talent as part of a strategy to become the premium business content provider worldwide.
“Our vision is to establish Fortune as the world’s leading business media brand, with an always-on reach and global relevance,” Jiaravanon said in a statement. “The demand for high-quality business information is growing, and with further committed investment in technology and brilliant journalism, we believe the outlook for further profitable growth is excellent both for the publication and the events business.”
As part of the Fortune sale, Meredith will provide “short-term business continuity services” and has entered a multiyear agreement with Jiaravanon to provide services including corporate sales, consumer marketing, subscription fulfillment, paper purchasing and printing.
“We’re pleased to have found Fortune a great home with Chatchaval Jiaravanon,” Meredith president and CEO Tom Harty said in a statement. “His dynamic leadership will enable the iconic Fortune brand to grow. We thank the Fortune team for their diligent work and wish them continued success.”