Time magazine sold to tech billionaire

Mr Marc Benioff and his wife, Lynne, in a 2016 photo. The couple are paying $261 million in cash for the flagship publication of once-mighty Time Inc.
Mr Marc Benioff and his wife, Lynne, in a 2016 photo. The couple are paying $261 million in cash for the flagship publication of once-mighty Time Inc.PHOTO AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

NEW YORK • Time, the pre-eminent weekly news magazine of the 20th century, will have new owners: Mr Marc Benioff, the billionaire co-founder of the Salesforce software firm, and his wife, Lynne.

Time's parent company, Meredith Corp, announced on Sunday that it had agreed to sell the flagship publication of once-mighty Time Inc to the Benioffs for US$190 million (S$261 million) in cash.

Mr Benioff, 53, becomes the latest tech billionaire to take the reins of an iconic media brand. Mr Jeff Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon, bought The Washington Post in 2013.

The same year, Mr John Henry, the billionaire owner of the Boston Red Sox, purchased The Boston Globe, while billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong, who made a fortune in biotechnology, bought The Los Angeles Times in June this year.

Last year, Ms Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, agreed to acquire a majority stake in The Atlantic magazine through her organisation, Emerson Collective.

Billionaire investor Warren Buffet has also purchased a series of newspapers in recent years.

But Mr Benioff stands on his own as an impassioned and eccentric billionaire. Drawn to computers at an early age, he interned at Apple as a college student, and became a top salesman at Oracle, the enterprise software company.

After burning out at Oracle, he travelled to India, decided to leave the company, and co-founded Salesforce in 1999. Today, Salesforce, a pioneer in the business model of offering software as a service, is worth some US$120 billion. Mr Benioff has an estimated net worth of US$6.5 billion and ranks 246th on Bloomberg's billionaires list.

With the deal for Time, the Benioffs have picked up one of the most storied - but struggling - publications in the United States.

Mr Alan Murray, Time Inc's chief content officer, said that, after dozens of meetings with suitors - "I don't have enough fingers and toes to count them," he said - the Benioffs emerged as the best fit, willing to put journalistic integrity before corporate gains.

"They're not looking for private-equity returns," Mr Murray said, adding that the couple would help the title "further make the transition into the digital world, but don't want to get involved" in Time's editorial voice.

Meredith had fended off offers from multiple suitors, including a more than US$325 million offer from Mr David Pecker, a confidant of President Donald Trump and the chief executive of American Media, publisher of the National Enquirer, to purchase three Time Inc titles.

Mr Benioff said his decision to buy Time was motivated by a desire to preserve the title. He said he did not expect the magazine to reflect his own social or political views, which he is not shy about sharing.

NYTIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 18, 2018, with the headline 'Time magazine sold to tech billionaire'. Print Edition | Subscribe