Forbes Quietly Searches for Investor

May Be Looking to Expand Internationally

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Forbes, the family-run publisher of magazines like Forbes and ForbesLife, is quietly seeking investors to buy a piece of the company, according to people familiar with the effort. It was not clear why Forbes is looking for an equity partner, but the search echoes a reported effort in 2002 to find an investor to buy up to 25% of the company. Forbes denied those reports at the time.
Business-magazine executives speculate that Forbes may be raising cash to fund expansion of its operations in Europe.
Business-magazine executives speculate that Forbes may be raising cash to fund expansion of its operations in Europe.

Sluggish sector
"Forbes, like many companies, has had discussions from time to time with potential partners," a company spokeswoman said today. "Also, Forbes is a privately held company and doesn't comment on these kinds of discussions."

Other executives in the business-magazine category speculated that Forbes may want extra cash to fund a new assault on Europe with a region-specific edition. It served Europe and other regions with Forbes Global from 1998 until last summer, when it remade the title as Forbes Asia.

The business-magazine sector has been sluggish, of course, and Forbes magazine has felt the effects. Its ad pages almost held flat in the first quarter, slipping 0.4%, and fell 2.9% last year, according to the Publishers Information Bureau.

But Forbes also collected $63.8 million in ad revenue during the first quarter, more than any competitor, and up 4.4% from $61.1 million during the first quarter of 2005, according to estimates by TNS Media Intelligence.

Competitive set
That $63.8 million also represents nearly 25% of the ad revenue brought in by a competitive set comprising Forbes, Business Week, The Economist, Harvard Business Review, Conde Nast Publications' Wired, Barron's from Dow Jones, Time Inc.'s Fortune and Business 2.0 and Mansueto Ventures' Inc. and Fast Company.

Forbes.com has also become a tremendous asset to the company, to the point that Forbes.com President-CEO Jim Spanfeller told attendees at last year's American Business Media conference in Boca Raton, Fla., that its ad revenues would "probably" exceed that of Forbes magazine in "about 18 to 20 months." That was 12 months ago.

The category, then again, may look very different by next year, after Conde Nast launches its own planned business magazine with former Wall Street Journal editor Joanne Lipman at the editor's helm and former New Yorker Publisher David Carey selling the ads.
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