Singapore start-up buys 49 per cent stake in Rolling Stone

Kuok Meng Ru stands in front of  guitar display at Swee Lee Music in Singapore in July, 2016.
Kuok Meng Ru stands in front of guitar display at Swee Lee Music in Singapore in July, 2016.ST PHOTO: MARCUS TAN

SINGAPORE - Singapore-based social music startup BandLab Technologies has acquired a 49 per cent stake in Rolling Stone, which publishes the eponymous magazine.

The size of the deal was not disclosed, but this is the first time Rolling Stone is taking on an outside shareholder since it was founded 49 years ago by American Jann Wenner.

BandLab chief executive Kuok Meng Ru is no complete unknown. Backed by his father and palm oil tycoon Kuok Khoon Hong, the 28-year-old Cambridge graduate has been building a smaller empire of his own in the music world.

 

In 2012, he acquired Swee Lee Music, a guitar and audio equipment distributor which he expanded online. BandLab, the group's flagship app, debuted last August as a platform for musicians to find collaborators on raw ideas. Earlier this month, the group acquired Mono, which designs accessories for musicians.

The Rolling Stone deal was first tabled about 15 months ago, after Mr Kuok was introduced to Mr Wenner by a member of the Forbes family.

While editorial decisions will continue to be made from the New York office, Mr Kuok will lead a new unit called Rolling Stone International, to be headquartered here.

His task is to take the brand into new markets and work on brand extensions.

"Rolling Stone's impact on culture over the years has been immeasurable and I'm truly honored to be joining the team on the next phase of its journey," he said.

"I look forward to working closely with Gus to take the brand bravely into the future and to realize its global potential."

Rolling Stone already publishes 12 international editions, so Mr Kuok will spend the next six to nine months getting to know the licensees and learning what support they need.

Revenue from RollingStone.com has grown over 90 per cent from 2013 to 2016. The print figures were not disclosed.