Forbes sale figure disputed, but still surprisingly high

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Steve Forbes. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
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Jeremy Barr

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Forbes Media did not announce the sale price for the majority stake in the company sold to investor group Integrated Whale Media Investments.

Sources for CNBC's Julia Boorstin pegged the number at $475 million, and that figure was confirmed on Twitter by a Mashable reporter.

But other sources, including Recode's Peter Kafka and Bloomberg's Edmund Lee, instead, reported that the deal valued the company at $475 million.

It is nevertheless a figure that comes as a surprise to many in the media industry.

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In December, The Wall Street Journal reported a $200-million valuation estimate for Forbes Media, according to a media banker. But W.S.J.'s William Launder suggested that the company was angling for a sale price between $400 and $500 million.

In February, TheStreet's Jonathan Marino reported that Chinese conglomerate Fosun International Ltd. was the leading candidate to purchase Forbes Media. Marino's sources told him that the sale price would likely be in the range of $250 million, significantly lower than the figure reported by Boorstin, but thought already to be ambitious by much of the financial press.

A more exact accounting is impossible without knowing what the Forbes' family's ownership position is after the sale. According to the announcement, the Forbes family will still hold "a significant ownership stake" in the company. The family will also remain "actively involved" in the company.

Forbes chairman and editor-in-chief Steve Forbes told Peter Kafka in an interview that Integrated Whale will own “the vast majority” of the company. But pressed for details, Forbes told Kafka: “To me, vast is over 51 percent.”

Representatives for Forbes Media did not respond to a Capital inquiry about the size of the family's ownership stake.

Forbes Media will remain headquartered in the U.S., and there will be no change at the top—Steve Forbes will continue as chairman and editor-in-chief, and Mike Perlis will remain C.E.O.

The company reported that it made a profit in 2013; the company projected a revenue of $144.6 million for the year, according to a report.