'Plenty of interest'
Time Warner Chairman-CEO Richard D. Parsons said during an earnings call yesterday that eight to 10 bidders had made the second round. "There's plenty of interest, but it's too early to call how the game is going to end," he said. A Time Inc. spokeswoman today said the auction process is going well and that the magazines have a number of very strong bidders, but declined to elaborate.
The company wants a deal in place before year-end.
Confirmation is hard to come by, but contenders accepted into the second round appear to include Stockholm's Bonnier Magazine Group, which entered the U.S. five months ago when it bought a 49% stake in World Publications, publisher of titles like Saveur and Spa; J. Russell Denson, the onetime president-CEO of Gruner & Jahr USA; CurtCo Media; and Efrem "Skip" Zimbalist III, president-CEO at enthusiast publisher Active Interest Media and the former CEO of Times Mirror Magazines.
Bidders not proceeding are said to include Kent Brownridge, the former No. 2 at Wenner Media; Apprise Media, the niche-media company started by Charles G. McCurdy, co-founder and former president of Primedia; and Sandler Capital Management, one of the investors that backed Bob Guccione Jr.'s acquisition of Discover magazine a year ago. All parties declined to comment or did not return calls seeking comment.
The assets for sale include the Parenting Group and most of the Time4 Media titles, such as Popular Science, Field & Stream and Ski. Time Inc. put them on the market on Sept. 12, calling them "good performers" that can't get the attention they need at a company so large.
"Time Inc. is focusing its energy, resources and investment on our largest and most profitable brands, brands that have demonstrated an ability to draw large audiences in print and digital form," Ann S. Moore, Time Inc. chairman-CEO, said in a memo to staff that day. First-round bids were due Oct. 25. In a memo updating Time Inc.-ers today, Ms. Moore wrote, "The auction process is going exceedingly well and we have some very strong bidders -- we will keep you updated as the sale progresses."