Jann Wenner is selling his controlling stake in Rolling Stone, relinquishing the publication he steered from street-savvy newspaper to glossy cultural influencer over 50 years. The story first was reported by The New York Times.
“I love my job, I enjoy it, I’ve enjoyed it for a long time,” Wenner, 71, told the Times. “But letting go,” he said, “was just the smart thing to do.”
Wenner’s 27-year-old son, Gus, serves as president and COO of Wenner Media. Together, they have pared down their holdings, selling US Weekly and Men’s Journal, then finally selling a 49 percent stake in Rolling Stone last year to BandLab Technologies, a Singapore-based music and tech company. Wenner Media has hired bankers to handle the sale of its remaining stake but indicated that the process is just starting.
The decision to sell control of Rolling Stone marks yet another landmark in the publishing industry. The company has suffered the same headwinds that affect all print publications, and also had a major misstep on the editorial side when they had to retract a story about a University of Virginia gang rape, a narrative that couldn’t be proved. That story resulted in three libel suits, one of which saw a federal jury award the plaintiff $3 million in damages.
But Rolling Stone long has been a cultural mover and shaker. Its cover was once the most coveted real estate in the magazine world, once spawning a hit song about the desire to appear “on the cover of the Rolling Stone.” Its roster of writers included some of the most impressive bylines in journalism since its launch in 1967.