Sadly, the Koch Brothers Aren’t Buying Time, Inc.

Meredith Corporation, a major magazine publisher headquartered in Iowa, has agreed to buy Time, Inc. for a little under $3 billion. The New York Times sheds tears over the transaction, referring to Time, Inc. as “the publisher of once-prestigious magazine titles including Time, Sports Illustrated and People.” Did they suddenly become non-prestigious now that the company is being bought by Meredith?

Perhaps so. The Times explains that “Time Inc. is New York to its core,” while “Meredith, based in Des Moines, is a Midwestern publisher through and through.” Perhaps not coincidentally, Meredith is thriving while Time, Inc. has floundered. What has driven news coverage, however, is the fact that Koch Equity Development is contributing $650 million toward the $3 billion deal. Do the math: the Koch brothers aren’t going to wind up running Time or (perhaps more important) Sports Illustrated.

Meredith has been careful to spike any such speculation:

[I]n its announcement of the deal, Meredith said that the private equity fund, Koch Equity Development, would not have a seat on Meredith’s board of directors and would “have no influence on Meredith’s editorial or managerial operations.”

Steve Lombardo, a spokesman for Koch Industries, also said that the Kochs had no plans to take an active role in the expanded company. “This is a passive financial investment made through our equity development arm,” Mr. Lombardo said. The company’s role in the transaction, he said, was similar to that of a bank.

That seems pretty definitive. But some are not convinced. A former managing editor of Time magazine, Richard Stengel, tweeted his fear that the supernaturally-talented brothers would somehow wind up in the driver’s seat:

Meredith wanted to buy Time Inc back in 2012, but didn’t want Time magazine. The difference now is the Koch brothers’ money. Even though they won’t have a seat on the board, hard to imagine they won’t influence the editorial side.

The logic is hard to follow. Unfortunately, I am afraid the Kochs will have no such influence. It is too bad: for years, Glenn Reynolds and others have been urging them to buy magazines–women’s magazines, in particular–and flip their editorial direction from hard left to moderate-libertarian-conservative. Unfortunately, the Meredith transaction does not seem to be a step in that direction.

Still, we can hope.


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