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Mansueto’s magazine move

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All magazines have their share of loyal subscribers, but there aren’t many readers devoted enough to plunk down $35 million to buy them.

But Joe Mansueto did.

Mansueto, founder and chairman-CEO of Morningstar Inc., spent a reported $35 million in June to acquire Inc. and Fast Company from Gruner+Jahr USA Publishing.

Why would the founder of a Chicago-based investment research firm-a firm that recently went public and is under federal scrutiny-decide to delve into publishing as a personal investment?

“I’ve always been a fan of the media business,” Mansueto said. “I just have a love of the printed word, strong editorial and well-designed publications. It’s an art and a business at the same time.”

With Inc. and Fast Company, Mansueto is cementing a relationship with two monthlies that he has read since he began building the firm that has made him a billionaire. Their missions and audience, he said, haven’t changed much: Inc. helps entrepreneurs better manage their business and Fast Company is for people who are passionate about their work and want to learn by studying success.

But what has changed are the fortunes of each. When G&J acquired the two business magazines five years ago in separate transactions, it paid a total of $550 million.

Mansueto’s only previous publishing experience has been as a passive investor in Time Out Chicago. After G+J put its magazines on the block and it became apparent that there was little interest in Fast Company, a mutual friend and AdMedia Partners Managing Director Mark Edmonston introduced Mansueto to Fast Company Editor John Byrne.

Mansueto became the sole bidder promising to rescue the money-losing magazine from the brink of extinction. To show his commitment, he took out a full-page ad in The New York Times, stating he’d give both Inc. and Fast Company the resources they needed to succeed.

Mansueto’s mission, he said, will be to chart the magazines’ courses strategically and continue to view them through the eyes of a reader. The top priority, he said, is to recruit a group publisher for both magazines. Ironically, Byrne, after convincing Mansueto of Fast Company’s viability, left the magazine to join McGraw-Hill Cos.’ BusinessWeek as executive editor. In late July, John Koten, Inc.’s editor in chief, was promoted to CEO of Mansueto Ventures. He will also serve as editor in chief of both magazines.

Mansueto plans to beef up the Web sites and add conferences, which had been scaled back at Inc. Both titles will continue to be based in New York , but the sales and marketing staffs, which had been combined under G+J, already have been separated and Fast Company is adding to its sales team.

“I don’t think we’re changing course,” Mansueto said. “They are both strong, strategic publications. I really want to build on the strengths that each magazine has and continue to invest in great editorial."

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