Nov 15, 2022 - Economy

Scoop: Forbes bidding group includes SUN Group, GSV

Illustration of a hand pulling the Forbes logo off-screen

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

After a chaotic path ended in a failed SPAC IPO earlier this year, Forbes Media is now in exclusive talks to sell to a consortium of investors that includes India-based SUN Group and GSV Ventures, Axios has learned, in a deal that could fetch around $800 million.

Why it matters: The consortium's exclusive talks brings Forbes a step closer to a deal and brings Integrated Whale Media, the Hong Kong-based investment firm that owns Forbes, a step closer to cashing out, something it's been trying to do for years.

Details: The Forbes bidding consortium includes SUN Group, a family-owned Indian investment firm led by vice chairman Shiv Khemka, and GSV Ventures, a U.S. based investment firm, according to a source familiar with the matter.

  • The source said that the deal values Forbes at around $800 million.
  • The consortium may also include other family offices and investment firms, sources tell Axios.
  • SUN Group has been in talks with Forbes about a potential deal for years, sources say.
  • Last winter, GSV pursued an offer for Forbes with a consortium of top family offices and institutional investors, Axios previously reported.

Of note: The New York Times reported last week that Forbes was in talks for an acquisition worth under $800 million, saying the deal was with investors from the U.S. and abroad.

  • A deal around $800 million would still be significantly higher than the $630 million enterprise value Forbes would have gotten by merging with blank check company Magnum Opus Acquisition Limited — the SPAC deal it failed to close earlier this year.

Zooming in: Forbes said last year that its full-year revenue for 2021 was $259 million, up 40% from the year prior. Adjusted EBITDA came in at $60 million, up from $33 million for fiscal year 2020.

  • One complicating factor about Forbes Media that has given investors pause in the past is the way Forbes' investments are structured, including its joint ventures in Forbes Advisors' parent company, Marketplace, and investing app Q.ai.
  • Forbes as a company owns a 40% stake in Marketplace, which offers consumers insights and reviews on topics such as personal finance, health, and investing and. It bought a majority stake in Q.ai in 2019.
  • The transaction value, a source said, accounts for the value of Forbes' equity position in Marketplace, but it does not buy the investment group control of it.

What to watch: Whether the deal crosses the finish line.

  • And, whether Integrated Whale Media, which bought a 95% stake in Forbes from the Forbes family in 2014, retains any stake in the company as part of the deal.
  • Forbes declined to comment. SUN Group and GSV did not immediately return a request seeking comment.
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