Rolling Stone co-founder Jann Wenner is putting the magazine up for sale, marking a new chapter for the cultural bible that for half a century has spotlighted musical artists from Jimi Hendrix to Prince and prose from such writers as Hunter S. Thompson and Matt Taibbi.
Wenner Media, one of the last family-owned media companies, would become the latest publisher to shift away from print after years of losing advertising and readership to online alternatives. A sale would leave the company without a print publication for the first time since Wenner created Rolling Stone in San Francisco in 1967.
The buyer of Wenner Media's 51 percent stake would most likely pay far less than the $500 million offer that Wenner has boasted about receiving years ago.
Gus Wenner, the company's digital chief, and his father, Jann, who started Rolling Stone when the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane were performing at local clubs, told the New York Times they intend to stay at the magazine but that the decision would be up to the new owner.
When Wenner Media sold a 49 percent stake in Rolling Stone to Singapore-based BandLab Technologies in September 2016, it was the first time Jann Wenner had admitted an outside investor. The deal was an opportunity to take the brand into new and different markets, Gus Wenner saidthen.
The younger Wenner runs the day-to-day operations. While some former employees have said 27-year-old Gus lacks the experience to run a media company, others say his youth may help a magazine that has focused too much on aging rock stars when advertisers are seeking younger readers.
Rolling Stone is looking to invest more in video, including TV and film projects, Gus Wenner told Bloomberg.
Wenner Media hired Methuselah Advisors to explore the sale of Rolling Stone, the company said Sunday. The company didn't say whether Wenner is in talks with any potential suitors.
Earlier this year, Wenner Media sold Men's Journal and Us Weekly to American Media Inc. The sales helped Wenner pay off substantial debt after it sold half of Us Weekly to Walt Disney Co. in 2001 for about $40 million, then borrowed to buy back the stake in 2006 for $300 million.
Rolling Stone's reputation was damaged when it was forced to retract a 2014 article about a gang rape at the University of Virginia after its reporting was discredited.
Rolling Stone and reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely lost a defamation case last year and were ordered to pay $1 million and $2 million, respectively. Rolling Stone agreed in June to pay $1.65 million to settle a defamation lawsuit against the fraternity named in the article.