Rolling Stone Founder Jann Wenner Selling 49% Stake to Singapore Billionaire's Son
BandLab, a startup digital music company that was founded by Kuok Meng Ru, a son of agriculture-business mogul, has come on board as the magazine's first investor.
Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner is selling 49 percent of the magazine to Bandlab, a digital music company owned by the son of an Asian billionaire, Bloomberg reported.
Wenner is planning to sell to Singapore-based BandLab Technologies, a startup digital music company that was founded by Kuok Meng Ru, a son of agriculture-business mogul Kuok Khoon Hong. BandLab, which he launched in 2015, is a social network for musicians as well as fans.
According to Bloomberg, BandLab will run a new, Singapore-based international subsidiary that will focus on developing live events as well as looks for merchandising and hospitality opportunities in Asia. It will have no say in editorial content.
Wenner's son and digital chief, Gus, told Bloomberg that they are hoping to take the brand into "new and different areas and markets." He added that "our growth in digital has been fantastic, but long-term, my dad and myself recognize that in order to truly grow and truly transform the business," they needed to partner with an Asia-based entity.
The deal has been in the works for about 15 months, added Kuok, whose other acquisitions have included Singapore-based guitar distributor Swee Lee; European music-making web service Composr; and San Francisco-based MONO Creators Inc., a creator of musician accessories.
The move comes as many publishing companies are looking to become less reliant on print revenue and seek out more opportunities in the online space and elsewhere. A Rolling Stone spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal that advertising pages were down 14 percent from January to August compared to the same period last year.
The magazine also continues to be embroiled in a defamation lawsuit over its since-retracted article about a gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity. Just last week, a federal judge denied summary judgment on key issues in the lawsuit, meaning the case is now headed to trial.
Rolling Stone was founded in 1967. The company says it has 22 million domestic digital users a month (comScore puts that number at 17.7 million) and a print readership of 12 million. Wenner, whose company Wenner Media also owns Us Weekly and Men's Journal, has never before allowed an outside investor to own part of the magazine. According to the Wall Street Journal, the deal with BandLab doesn't include Wenner Media.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.