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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Investment firm GSV is working on a bid to buy Forbes Media at a $620 million valuation as an alternative to Forbes' announced SPAC merger, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: BuzzFeed's public listing last week added to growing skepticism about the SPAC market for media companies. Its shares are down roughly 40% from its opening price, and 94% of investors redeemed their stock following the merger news.

  • Forbes previously announced plans to go public via a SPAC merger that was set to close in Q4 of this year or Q1 2022.
  • "We are moving full steam ahead with SPAC transaction," Forbes Media chief communications officer Bill Hankes told Axios. "We remain on schedule to close the transaction in the first quarter."
  • The blank check company that Forbes is expected to merge with, Magnum Opus Acquisition, is sponsored by Hong Kong-based investment firm L2 Capital.

Details: The bid is led by GSV Asset Management CEO Michael Moe, with participation from "top family offices and institutional investors," according to a pitch a participating investor is circulating to others and seen by Axios.

  • The deal would value Forbes at $620 million, slightly less than the $630 million valuation Forbes would get via its merger with Magnum Opus.
  • According to the pitch, the first tranche is set to close on Dec. 31, and the second in March 2022.

Between the lines: Forbes had been pursuing a private sale prior to its decision to merge with a SPAC. It's unclear whether Forbes will pivot to the private sale.

  • Forbes Media communications chief Bill Hankes declined to comment when asked whether the company is in communication with GSV about a potential deal.
  • Sources told Axios earlier this year that some of the Forbes top brass preferred some of the private offers it received prior to the SPAC announcement, most notably an effort by GSV.
  • Other companies, like blockchain software firm Block.one, had also expressed interest, as Axios previously reported. (Forbes experimented with blockchain briefly in 2018.)
  • Moe declined to comment to Axios.

Be smart: The SPAC merger is structured so that Forbes’ majority owner Yam Tak Cheung — also known as TC Yam — could take out a roughly $400 million secondary round from funds secured via the acquisition.

  • But its merger presentation notes that any redemptions from investors will impact the amount of secondary proceeds he or other shareholders will receive. There's been an uptick in redemptions (and even merger cancellations) since the summer.
  • The SPAC Forbes is set to merge with had already secured additional $400 million in institutional investments via a PIPE to supplement the available cash.

Catch up quick: Forbes, which launched in 1917, was family owned until 2014, when the Forbes family sold a 95% stake to Chinese investment group called Integrated Whale Media. The deal reportedly valued Forbes at $475 million.

  • The Forbes family later sued Integrated Whale Media for missing an interest payment from money it borrowed from the Forbes family to finance part of the deal and eventually defaulting on the loan. The two parties reportedly settled the dispute in 2017.
  • Reports over the past few years have suggested that Yam was looking to offload the property for some time.
  • The Forbes brand has a lot of cachet with investors and corporate executives.

The bottom line: Sources have told Axios that the dynamic between Yam and Steve Forbes, the media company's chairman and former CEO, has been on shaky ground for years and that there's been friction between the two when it comes to deals.

Go deeper

Austin's big year for VC funding

Expand chart
Data: PitchBook & NVCA; Chart: Baidi Wang/Axios

Despite the pandemic and labor shortages, Austin's venture capital industry in 2021 continued to boom.

The big picture: Startup funding flowed in Austin last year, delivering 387 deals valued at a record-setting $4.9 billion — or 211% growth compared to the previous year — per data from PitchBook.

  • The investments range from seed money to later stage rounds, a sign Austin serves to benefit brand-new startups as well as growing companies.
Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

British national named in Colleyville synagogue standoff

A law enforcement vehicle sits near the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue on Jan. 16. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

British national Malik Faisal Akram took four people hostage at a Texas synagogue outside Fort Worth on Saturday, the FBI said in a statement.

State of play: Authorities had initially declined to release the name of the 44-year-old suspect or identify the hostages, all adults, though police chief Michael Miller confirmed that one of those held was Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, who leads the congregation.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Concerns grow over CDC's isolation guidelines — Experts warn of more COVID-19 variants after Omicron — WHO recommends 2 new treatments — What "mild" really means when it comes to Omicron — Deaths are climbing as cases skyrocket.
  2. Vaccines: America's vaccination drive runs out of gas— Puerto Rico expands booster shot requirements— Supreme Court blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for large employers.
  3. Politics: Vivek Murthy calls SCOTUS vaccine mandate block "a setback for public health" — Focus group says Biden weak on COVID response, strong on democracy
  4. Economy: America's labor shortage is bigger than the pandemic— — CDC COVID guidance for cruise ships to be optional starting Saturday — The cost of testing.
  5. States: West Virginia governor feeling "extremely unwell" after positive test — Youngkin ends mandates for masks in schools and COVID vaccinations for state workers — America struggles to keep schools open
  6. World: Beijing reports first local Omicron case weeks before Winter Olympics — Teachers in France stage mass walkout over COVID protocols.
  7. Variant tracker

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