A&E President-CEO Nick Davatzes told staffers at A&E's annual meeting Dec. 10 that the company was seeking a "strategic partner" for the stand-alone magazine. But executives outside the company confirm being approached for potential deals months before Mr. Davatzes made his announcement, although these executives also say efforts to find a deal have stepped up in the past several weeks.
A&E has retained media investment banker Veronis Suhler Stevenson, said Tom Heymann, senior vice president of the Biography brand.
Executives familiar with the A&E's entreaties for the magazine, which launched in early 1997, said it takes in revenues slightly shy of $20 million and is not profitable. Mr. Heymann declined to comment on financial data.
"Having a stand-alone magazine is definitely more challenging than it needs to be," Mr. Heymann said. "Chances for optimizing success for the magazine and the brand imprint would be improved" by finding a new partner already in magazine publishing.
A&E is owned 37.5% by the Hearst Corp., 37.5% by the Walt Disney Co.'s ABC, and 25% by General Electric Co.'s NBC. Hearst Magazines has been successful with its joint venture with Walt Disney-owned cable channel ESPN for ESPN the Magazine and will co-launch a Lifetime-branded magazine with that cable network next year. But informed observers say that for A&E to solicit other options for a potential deal suggests Hearst passed on purchasing or investing further in the title.
Mr. Heymann deflected such talk, saying the company was "exploring all the options." A Hearst spokesman declined to comment.
Has readers, not advertisers
Biography has demonstrated reader demand, but the ad side has been weak. While in the first half of 2002 circulation rose 5% to 724,550, boosted by a 9.2% spike in newsstand sales, ad pages through November were down 18.4% to 305.5. Biography has been included in Hearst Magazines corporate ad buys for about a year, Mr. Heymann said.