How ABG Plans to Take Sports Illustrated Beyond Publishing

Authentic Brands Group has snapped up one of sports media’s most storied publications, announcing yesterday that it had completed the $110 million purchase of the intellectual property of Sports Illustrated from Meredith Corporation.

The deal includes SI’s associated brands, including Sports Illustrated Kids, Sportsperson of the Year and Sports Illustrated Swimsuit. As part of the acquisition, the New York City-based company assumes the marketing, business development and licensing of Sports Illustrated’s intellectual property and its brand.

The print magazine and its website, SI.com, will maintain editorial independence and continue operations under Meredith, editor-in-chief Chris Stone and publisher Danny Lee.

“As one of the most iconic brands in sports media, SI is a cultural centerpiece with massive opportunities for growth across its burgeoning digital, TV and social platforms and industry-leading print magazine,” ABG founder, chairman and CEO Jamie Salter said in a statement. “SI’s trusted name and fiercely devoted following set the stage for the brand to become a leader in lifestyle and entertainment.”

Describing the move as a strategic partnership, ABG and Meredith seek to build a global media platform in the sports, culture and entertainment industries through print, digital, mobile, video, social and broadcast TV mediums.

ABG not only expects to develop broad-based licensing programs through product, original content and live events, but also sees an opportunity to position the brand as a leader in e-sports and sports gambling.

“This strategic partnership brings a new approach to media brand development, and we’re excited to leverage Meredith and ABG’s respective strengths to enhance and build upon Sports Illustrated’s undeniable value,” said John Zieser, chief development officer at Meredith.

Stone added, “We are now perfectly positioned, with the support and resources of ABG, to thrive in many other spaces: events and conferences, licensing, gambling and gaming, IP development — especially in video and TV, to name a few.”

The deal marks ABG’s latest move to diversify its portfolio. The firm, which took home FN’s 2018 Company of the Year award, has established itself as a fashion and footwear powerhouse — picking up the Nautica brand from VF Corp. last March, purchasing Nine West and Bandolino out of bankruptcy in June and securing Camuto Group in October.

Early this year, the firm also announced a decade-long partnership with Tilray Inc., a global pioneer of cannabis production, and entered the skate market with the acquisition of Volcom, which was previously owned by French luxury group Kering SA.

ABG said it currently generates more than $9.3 billion each year in global retail sales.

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