Forbes Going Public In SPAC Deal That Values Century-Old Brand At $630 Million

Mexican media mogul Carlos Slim Helu, left, with Steve Forbes in 2010 AP Photo/Jeremy Piper

Forbes Global Media, the business information brand that started with a 104-year-old magazine, is going public by merging with a SPAC — or special purpose acquisition company — in a deal that values the company at $630 million.

The news hits amid a wave of digital media deals including a major one earlier today when German publisher Axel Springer announced it’s buying Politico.

Nextstar Media acquired The Hill last week. Vox Media, owner of The Verge and New York Magazine, is acquiring Punch, an outlet that covers drinks and cocktail culture, and is said to be eying an IPO. So is Vice.

Buzzfeed kicked off the frenzy in late June when it announced a SPAC merger and acquisition of Complex Networks. Group Nine — parent of PopSugar, Thrillist, NowThis, The Dodo and Seeker — has created a SPAC to pursue digital media deals.

Forbes — famous for its array of popular ‘rich lists’ that launched in 1982 with the Forbes Richest 400 — will trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol ‘FRBS’. Its existing management team will continue to oversee operations under CEO Mike Federle.

Forbes was the nation’s first big business magazine, founded in 1917 by Bertie Charles Forbes, a business columnist for William Randolph Hearst’s newspapers. Leaderships passed to his son Malcolm Forbes and then to Steven Forbes, who is the outlet’s chairman and editor-in-chief. An advocate of the so-called “flat tax” he campaigned on that for the Republican presidential nomination in 1996 and 2000.

Hong Kong-based Integrated Whale Media acquired a 95% stake in Forbes in 2014. The Forbes family owns the rest.

The Forbes brand reaches more than 150 million people worldwide through its trusted journalism, signature LIVE events, custom marketing programs and 45 licensed local editions covering 76 countries. Brand extensions include real estate, education and financial services license agreements.

Through its digital platforms, Forbes is among the top 50 most visited websites on the internet.

The SPAC that’s buying Forbes is called Magnum Opus Acquisition, focused on global consumer, technology and media. It said the deal will allow Forbes to accelerate a digital transformation “using technology and data-driven insights to create more deeply engaged audiences, and associated high-quality and recurring revenue streams.” The deal is expected to close late this year or early next.

SPACs, also called “blank check” entities, have been around for years but exploded during the pandemic as investors searched for places to put their money to work. SPACs assemble a hopefully seasoned leadership team, go public and look for private companies to acquire. For the SPAC targets, it’s faster, cheaper and easier way to go public than a traditional IPO. The SPACS have two years to find a company to buy.

With hundreds of them on the prowl, however, the SPAC phenomenon may be overheating. Disclosure requirements for SPACs aren’t as rigorous as for other kinds of investment and the SEC has expressed concerns.

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