Wenner Media, the company founded by publisher Jann Wenner, is selling its controlling stake in the iconic music and culture magazine Rolling Stone, citing a desire “to best position the brand for future growth.”
The news comes one year after Wenner Media sold 49 percent of Rolling Stone to BandLab Technologies, a digital music company based in Singapore.
“Rolling Stone is a uniquely powerful brand with enormous opportunities to succeed in today’s environment,” said Gus Wenner, president and chief operating officer of Wenner Media and Jann Wenner’s son.
He said in a statement that the company has “made great strides transforming Rolling Stone into a multi-platform company.”
Wenner Media says Rolling Stone reaches more than 60 million people each month through multiple platforms (from social media to videos), and that its online traffic has grown by nearly 50 percent over the past three years.
Since its founding in 1967, Rolling Stone has been a mainstay of music journalism and pop culture; it has also published in-depth features and investigative reporting. But the magazine has suffered the drops in circulation and revenue that have disrupted much of the print media industry in the online age.
Rolling Stone’s bank account and reputation have also taken hits over the magazine being forced to retract a 2014 story about an alleged gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity house — a controversial episode that also saw the magazine settle a defamation lawsuit from the fraternity for $1.65 million in June. Months earlier, the magazine settled claims in a $3 million defamation case over a lawsuit filed by a U-Va. administrator who was a key figure in the story.
Wenner Media’s move to unload magazines isn’t limited to Rolling Stone; in June, Wenner Media sold another home-grown title, Men’s Journal, to American Media Inc., publisher of magazines and tabloids such as the National Enquirer. That sale came months after Wenner sold its Us Weekly to American Media.
In an interview with The New York Times, the Wenners said they plan to remain at the magazine. Gus Wenner, who is the president and chief operating officer of Wenner Media, said the magazine needs new investment to meet its ambitions. By selling, he said, the publisher is trying “to get ahead of the curve.”
“Publishing is a completely different industry than what it was,” Gus Wenner said. “The trends go in one direction, and we are very aware of that.”
As for who might buy the magazine, Jann Wenner told the Times that he hopes it’s someone who both respects Rolling Stone and also has “lots of money.”