Nov 11, 2018

With Fortune snapped up by Thai buyer, the business press moves east

Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Thai businessman Chatchaval Jiaravanon has acquired Fortune magazine for $150 million, in just the latest example of a U.S. business publication ending up in the hands of an East Asian buyer.

Be smart: The day might not be that far off when there are no major American-owned business publications at all. Even Business Insider is German.

The similar moves in the space:

  • Uzabase, a Japanese company, bought Quartz for about $100 million in July.
  • A mysterious Hong Kong-based group named Integrated Whale Media Investments bought control of Forbes magazine in 2014.
  • Lachlan Murdoch is openly wondering whether his father Rupert might sell the Wall Street Journal. Should that ever happen, don't be surprised if that buyer, too, turns out to be East Asian.

Tech-rich Americans are perhaps more likely to just funnel money in the general direction of journalists, rather than buying trophies.

  • Twitter co-founder Ev Williams has raised $132 million at Medium and is now raising even more.
  • Ethereum co-founder Joe Lubin has given $5 million to Civil.
  • eBay co-founder Pierre Omidyar put $50 million into First Look Media.
  • Craigslist co-founder Craig Newmark has been showering millions of dollars on various nonprofit journalistic entities. He doesn't get to own anything, but he does get his name on a J-school.

The bottom line: Journalists tend to have mixed feelings when their publications are bought for nine-figure sums. On the one hand, it's a vote of confidence in their work and a sign that it's valuable. On the other hand, the money is going to sellers, not journalists. If the buyers expect a decent return on their investment, then the higher the purchase price, the bigger the un-reinvested dividends the new owner might demand.

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