Des Moines-based Meredith Corporation — publisher of such magazines as Family Circle and Better Homes and Gardens — has struck a deal to purchase New York-based magazine publisher Time, Inc. If the sale is approved by the boards of both companies, Meredith will acquire such well-known magazines as Time, Sports Illustrated and Fortune.
The $1.8 billion deal is Meredith’s third attempt to buy Time, Inc., and this time it is able to make an all cash offer for Time stock at $18.50 per share, thanks to $650 million in financing put up by Koch Equity Development. The private equity fund is controlled by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.
The Koch brothers are well-known for their generous financial support of conservative political causes, and their involvement in this deal has raised suspicions among critics of Kochs.
“The deal raises concerns if the Koch brothers intend to use Time as a vehicle for their ideological views from behind the scenes,” Richard Stengel, a senior editor at Time, who served in the State Department during the Obama administration, told Politico.
Meredith attempted to address such concerns in a press release that stated the Koch Brothers “will have no influence” over its publications, and neither the brothers nor any representative of their equity firm will have a seat on the board of directors.
Stengel didn’t find Meredith’s statement reassuring, according to Politico. “It would be naive to think that just because the Koch brothers don’t have a seat on the board that they wouldn’t wield some kind of editorial influence,” he said.
Time magazine occupied an important position in American culture from shortly after its founding in 1923 until the 1990s. Over the last two decades, its circulation has dramatically declined. In October, Time Inc. announced it was cutting the weekly print circulation of its eponymous magazine again, this time by one-third. It also announced it was cutting the print issues frequency of seven of its other titles, including Sport Illustrated and Fortune.
Time cultural significance has also withered as the magazine’s print and online editions have struggled to find an audience since the ’90s. But the magazine, especially its annual Person of the Year issue, is still considered important by some, most notably President Donald Trump.
Last Friday, Trump tweeted:
Time Magazine called to say that I was PROBABLY going to be named “Man (Person) of the Year,” like last year, but I would have to agree to an interview and a major photo shoot. I said probably is no good and took a pass. Thanks anyway!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 24, 2017
Several current and former Time employees immediately took to Twitter to dispute Trump’s claim. For example, Alan Murray, Time’s chief content officer, tweeted:
Amazing. Not a speck of truth here—Trump tweets he 'took a pass' at being named TIME's person of the year https://t.co/D6SJgyTpcY
— Alan Murray (@alansmurray) November 25, 2017
Eventually, the magazine’s official accounts stated:
The President is incorrect about how we choose Person of the Year. TIME does not comment on our choice until publication, which is December 6.
— TIME (@TIME) November 25, 2017
Trump has often boasted about his appearances on the cover of Time. In a seeming non-sequitur during a January speech at CIA headquarters, Trump claimed he had “the all-time record in the history of Time magazine” for cover appearances. (This is not true.)
In June, The Washington Post revealed at least 17 of Trump’s golf clubs “from South Beach to Scotland” were displaying fake covers of a nonexistent March 1, 2009 issue of Time, featuring a photo of Trump with the all-caps headline, “TRUMP IS HITTING ON ALL FRONTS . . . EVEN TV!”
The covers were removed following the report.