Forbes sells control of media business to Hong Kong group

(Reuters) - Forbes magazine’s publisher has agreed to sell a majority stake of its media business to a Hong Kong-based group of investors for an undisclosed sum, Forbes Media said on Friday, capping an eight-month hunt for a buyer for the company.

Forbes Media Chairman and Editor-in-Chief Steve Forbes speaks during a news conference before the Forbes Global CEO Conference in Kuala Lumpur September 12, 2011. REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad

The Forbes family, which founded the magazine 97 years ago, is retaining a “significant” interest in the company and remains an active part of management, Forbes Media said in a statement. Steve Forbes will continue to serve as chairman and editor-in-chief.

The buyer is a newly formed consortium out of Hong Kong called Integrated Whale Media Investments, led by Integrated Asset Management, an investment company that focuses on the technology, finance and telecommunications sectors, and Wayne Hsieh, the co-founder of Asustek Computer Inc 2357.TW.

Forbes Media said it will retain its name and will remain a privately-held, independent company headquartered in the United States. Chief Executive Officer Mike Perlis will continue to lead the company’s management team. Forbes’ Asian business will continue to be directed from Singapore under Forbes Media’s Asia CEO Will Adamopoulos.

“Our partners respect our brand and values, and support our long-standing mission of championing entrepreneurship and free market capitalism through quality, independent business journalism,” Steve Forbes said in a statement.

“The best evidence of their commitment to what we stand for is their insistence on the continued involvement of the Forbes family, the current management and our highly talented editorial team. I will remain deeply involved in the future of the company.”

The deal means that Elevation Partners, the private equity firm that counts U2 singer Bono as one of its founders, has exited the company. In 2006, it invested $264 million for a 45 percent stake before a downturn racked the print industry as advertisers directed their budgets to the digital field.

When Forbes first announced it was going on the auction block in November, a source familiar with the matter at the time said the company was hoping for a sale in the range of $400 million to $500 million.

It is not known whether that goal was reached, but a person familiar with the deal said the transaction values the company at $475 million.

Forbes magazine, known for its annual list of the world’s wealthiest people and as an unabashed promoter of capitalism, has in recent years been making a big digital push with its website. However, it still must surmount the high hurdles facing magazine publishers everywhere, particularly the declines in readership and advertising revenue.

Last year, Forbes magazine’s advertising revenue fell 5 percent to about $260 million on a 10 percent drop in ad pages, according to estimates from the Publisher’s Information Bureau.

Reporting by Jennifer Saba in New York; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Paul Simao