Time Inc. representatives notified the losers in its auction today. The consensus among those executives is that Bonnier will walk away the winner. Some said Bonnier's "monster bid" was helped by favorable exchange rates.
"They have picked a bidder and it wasn't us," said one contender, Efrem "Skip" Zimbalist III, president-CEO at enthusiast publisher Active Interest Media. Other bidders did not return calls; a Time Inc. spokeswoman declined to comment.
A Bonnier victory would allow Time Inc. to deliver on its preference, expressed at the start of the process last September, to find a strategic buyer rather than sell to private-equity players with perhaps shorter-term financial goals.
If the deal closes as expected, Bonnier will get full ownership of most of Time Inc.'s Time4 Media division, including titles such as Ski, Skiing, Field & Stream, Popular Science, Outdoor Life, Motorboating and Yachting. It also won Time Inc.'s Parenting and BabyTalk magazines along with Parenting.com. Bonnier entered the U.S. last year, when it bought a 49% stake in World Publications, the publisher of titles such as Saveur and Spa.
But nothing was completely certain late this afternoon, 48 hours after Time Inc. collected second-round bids from parties that included Bonnier; InterMedia Advisors, which was started by former Yes Network CEO Leo Hindery; Kent Brownridge, the former Wenner No. 2, with the Quadrangle Group; Jack Haire, the former Time Inc. veteran with Boston Ventures; and Mr. Zimbalist, the former CEO of Times Mirror Magazines.
The Time4 division is the descendant of Times Mirror Magazines, a group of leisure and special-interest titles that Time Inc. bought from the Tribune Co. for $475 million in December 2000.
An official announcement is likely tomorrow, when Time Inc. parent Time Warner will also hold a board meeting that expected to ratify a winner.