Forbes Newest Stakeholder: Bono

Family-owned Media Company Sells Minority Share to Elevation Partners

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NEW YORK ( -- After Dan Rather hooked up with Mark Cuban, few of us expected there was an even stranger odd media couple in the works. But Forbes opened our minds this morning with the announcement that it had sold a significant minority stake to Elevation Partners, a new private equity firm with six partners, the most famous being U2's lead singer, Bono.
Steve Forbes on his new equity partner, rock star Bono: 'We're going to have fun trying to educate each other.'
Steve Forbes on his new equity partner, rock star Bono: 'We're going to have fun trying to educate each other.' Credit: AP

The differences between Bono and Steve Forbes, the conservative former presidential candidate, apparently did not matter to either party as much as the business opportunity.

Forbes, like everyone in the business-news space, is steeling itself against new competition from many quarters, including Conde Nast Publications' planned introduction of Portfolio magazine next spring. Whether Portfolio ultimately succeeds or not, it will certainly make attracting and retaining advertisers and readers that much harder for everyone else.

'The media universe is expanding'
"We think the media universe is expanding and expanding mightily, and we want to do anything we can to take advantage of it," said Steve Forbes, president-CEO at the newly formed Forbes Media and editor in chief at Forbes magazine, speaking by phone from Krumlov in the Czech Republic. "We're excited, and now we have more wherewithal to turn these possibilities into realities."

Mr. Forbes said his new rock-star partner would be an asset, despite any political disagreements. "Bono is not quiet about anything he believes in," he said. "He appreciates that we have a strong point of view. We're going to have fun trying to educate each other."

Mr. Forbes also dispelled earlier speculation that the company wanted new equity to fund a new English-language assault on Europe. "We have no plans to launch an English-language edition in Europe," he said. "But we are very actively looking to launch local-language editions in Europe. On the web side, there are also some very positive possibilities in Europe and, of course, Asia."

Elevation's other partners are Fred Anderson, former exec VP-chief financial officer, Apple Computer; John Riccitiello, former president-COO, Electronic Arts; Bret Pearlman, former managing director, The Blackstone Group; and Marc Bodnick, founding principal, Silver Lake Partners.

New equity investors
Forbes has been looking for new equity investors on and off for years, although it denied such reports back in 2002. Most recently, Advertising Age broke the news in May that the family-run publisher had renewed active efforts to find a new partner.

Forbes magazine has struggled along with its competitive set to remain relevant amid a sea of online news and data sources and a weak business-to-business advertising market. It did increase ad pages during the first half, however, chalking up a 1.3% gain over first-half 2005 for a total of nearly 1,549. That figure exceeds ad pages at any of its competitors.

With the deal, Forbes seems to have satisfied its immediate appetite for new funding and entrepreneurial blood. "The others can look in the window and drool," Mr. Forbes said.
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