After Meredith Corp. (NYSE: MDP) bought storied Time Inc., the largest magazine publisher in America, there was some hope that it would keep all the Time properties and that layoffs would be modest as it built the largest media digital platform in the United States, based on online visitors.
Meredith gave up on both keeping the entire Time portfolio and an effort to create scale online as a means to sell advertising and subscriptions. It will lay off 1,000 people, on top of 200 it already has fired. It will also sell Time, Fortune, Money and Sports Illustrated to buyers who may or may not keep the size or editorial integrity of the properties intact.
The four properties are among Time’s oldest and largest, except for People, which may become Meredith’s largest single property. The flagship Time was founded in 1923. Fortune was started in 1929 during the Great Depression. Sports Illustrated was started in 1954, and Time was so committed to Sports Illustrated that it supported losses for over 10 years.
Meredith has made no promises that the Time properties will be sold to buyers who will keep their staffs intact or even keep them close to their current editorial missions. The best guess is that buyers will be other media companies or billionaires. ESPN would be a logical candidate to buy Sports Illustrated, which could be folded in with ESPN, the Magazine, which is published every other week. While it might keep its title, Sports Illustrated could lose much of its identity. Fortune may fit well as a part of Bloomberg, which already owns BusinessWeek, or what is left of it. BusinessWeek is currently called Bloomberg BusinessWeek.
While there are fewer places Time may be a good fit, it could be a prize for a billionaire, as the Washington Post was for Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.
With all its most well-known titles, except People, being auctioned off, Time finally will disappear.