Rolling Stone founder puts controlling stake in magazine up for sale

Jann Wenner (left), founder of Rolling Stone magazine, and his youngest son, Gus Wenner, at the magazine’s headquarters in New York City, on Oct 13, 2016.
Jann Wenner (left), founder of Rolling Stone magazine, and his youngest son, Gus Wenner, at the magazine’s headquarters in New York City, on Oct 13, 2016.PHOTO: NYTIMES

LOS ANGELES (NYTimes) - From a loft in San Francisco in 1967, a 21-year-old named Jann S. Wenner started a magazine that would become the counter-culture bible for baby boomers. Rolling Stone defined cool, cultivated literary icons and produced star-making covers that were such coveted real estate they inspired a song.

But the headwinds buffeting the publishing industry, and some costly strategic missteps, have steadily taken a financial toll.

A botched story three years ago about an unproven gang rape at the University of Virginia badly bruised its reputation.

And so, after a half-century reign that propelled him into the realm of the rock stars and celebrities, Wenner is putting his company's controlling stake in Rolling Stone up for sale, relinquishing his hold on a publication he has led since its founding.

He had long tried to remain an independent publisher in a business favouring size and breadth. But he acknowledged in a recent interview that the magazine he had nurtured would face a difficult uncertain future on its own.

"I love my job, I enjoy it, I've enjoyed it for a long time," said Wenner, 71.

But letting go, he added, was "just the smart thing to do".

The sale plans were devised by Wenner's 27-year-old son, Gus, who has aggressively pared down the assets of Rolling Stone's parent company, Wenner Media, in response to financial pressures.

The Wenners recently sold the company's other two magazines, Us Weekly and Men's Journal. And last year, they sold a 49 per cent stake in Rolling Stone to BandLab Technologies, a music technology company based in Singapore.