The Target Report: Sports Illustrated Print Edition Heads to Hospice (

Meredith, the publishing company that is slowly dismantling the portfolio of iconic Time-Life magazine titles that it acquired in 2018, has sold Sports Illustrated to Authentic Brands Group (“ABG”). Well, kinda.

The press release announcing the sale of Sports Illustrated begins with the somewhat obtuse statement that “Global Brand Owner Purchases a Sports Media Icon and Forges a Strategic Partnership with Meredith Corporation to Build a Global Platform Converging Sports, Culture and Entertainment.” My BS antenna went up with that description of the deal as a “Strategic Partnership,” since in my world of M&A transactions this euphemism is often code for something other than a real sale. Digging deeper into the details reveals that what the branding company really acquired was the intellectual property of the Sports Illustrated brands, including two million photos and the rights to use and sell licensed uses of the names Sportsperson of the Year, Sports Illustrated Kids, Sports Illustrated TV, and of course, the famous Sports Illustrated Swimsuit.

What ABG did not buy for its $110 million purchase price was the obligation to continue publishing the magazine. Meredith was apparently unable to find a buyer that would assume the legacy responsibilities of producing insightful editorial content, obtaining stunning photographs, and in general being bogged down in the nitty gritty world of publishing. In an odd twist, Meredith has agreed to operate the Sports Illustrated printed magazine and the accompanying website for at least two years. Odder yet, Meredith will pay ABG a licensing fee for the use of the Sports Illustrated brand, the brand it just sold.
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