Time Warner, the $49 billion media conglomerate built on the foundation of the printed word, is in early talks with Meredith Corp. to sell its publishing division Time Inc., shedding itself of the vast majority of its magazines, according to three people briefed on the discussions who could not comment publicly on preliminary and private conversations.
The deal being discussed would allow Time Warner to hang on to three flagship magazines, Time, Fortune and Sports Illustrated, while selling the majority of its portfolio, including magazines like Real Simple, Entertainment Weekly, Cooking Light and InStyle. The titles, which amount to essentially a women’s magazine company, make a good fit for Meredith Corp., based in Des Moines, Iowa, and the publisher of such titles as Better Homes and Gardens and Ladies’ Home Journal. Jack Griffin, a former chief executive at Meredith, served a brief and stormy reign as chief of Time Inc. before Laura Lang took over in January.
Meredith would also gain People magazine, the celebrity weekly and crown jewel of Time Inc.’s stable of 21 magazines. But Meredith did not express interest in purchasing Time Inc.’s sluggish news titles, said a person briefed on the discussions.
A Time Warner spokesman declined to comment. News of the talks was first reported by Fortune.
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The talks come weeks after Time Inc. announced it would lay off 6 percent of its global workforce of more than 8,000 employees during an industrywide decline in subscription and advertising revenue. Overall revenue at Time Inc. has declined roughly 30 percent in the past five years.
Jeffrey L. Bewkes, chief executive of Time Warner, has denied reports that he would sell Time Inc.
The company’s exploration of a deal that would allow it to keep male-oriented titles like Sports Illustrated, Time and Fortune would let it maintain its name and historical roots.
“Time’s name is on the door. I think Jeff feels it would be better to hang onto it and not sell it for what would be a low price,” said a person briefed on Bewkes’ thinking who could not discuss private conversations on the record.