August 20, 2014 Last Updated 9:17 am

Condé Nast sells Fairchild Fashion Media to Penske Media, takes big loss on its 1999 purchase from Disney

B2B titles include Women’s Wear Daily, Footwear News, Beauty Inc, M and the Fairchild Summits

The publisher of WWD: Women’s Wear Daily, Condé Nast, yesterday announced that it had sold off its Fairchild Fashion Media division to Penske Media Corp. (PMC). The NYT pegged the deal at around $100 million, far below the price Condé Nast paid for the group when it purchased it from Disney for $650 million in 1999 – the height of the B2B publishing boom.

“This is a unique and remarkable opportunity to add a collection of esteemed global brands to our growing portfolio,” said Jay Penske, PMC Chairman & CEO. “WWD and the other Fairchild properties are brands the entire PMC organization deeply respects, with an editorial heritage I have revered throughout my career. We look forward to welcoming this exceptional editorial team and profoundly talented organization to PMC.”

Penske has been rolling up high profile, legacy media properties, buying such brands as Variety from media companies looking to divest. In addition to the titles purchased from Reed, Penske also owns BGR (Boy Genius Report), BollywoodLife.com, Movie|Line and Deadline.

Fairchild Fashion Media didn’t fit Condé Nast very well as it is about trade publishing. But finding a buyer for any B2B property is difficult as most of the larger publishers are owned by private equity firms looking to sell off their brands, not expand.

Fairchild was bought at a time when media companies were expanding their portfolios, buying other companies and brands at high multiples with the idea of growing the value of their company and reaping huge gains down the road through a sale. Condé Nast, for some reason, got caught up in that cycle. Because of this, WWD, Footwear News, Menswear and the other brands are probably in a better home today with Penske Media, making this a potentially good deal for the staffers involved.

PMC is headquartered in Los Angeles, and is privately owned. Founded in 2003 by Jay Penske, the son of the auto racing owner Roger Penske. The company’s first move was to buy the mail.com domain which is later sold off. In 2009, a year after a $35 million cash inclusion from Quadrangle Capital Partners, the company bought Deadline. The next year it bought BGR. In 2012 PMC bought the entertainment properties of Variety and 411 from Reed Elsevier which was had been trying to find a buyer for the B2B properties since its decision to divest its brands in the U.S. Reed maintained Variety, rather than close it, as it had done with many other brands, while it continued to search for a buyer. (I once interviewed to become publisher of 411 but bowed out after realizing what a mess Reed had created.)

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