At Time Inc., a Jittery Reckoning on the day after the sale


An employee asked Rich Battista, executive director of Time Inc., how much money he would personally earn from the sale. (Mr. Battista objected, but according to the regulatory documents, he could leave with about $ 15 million.)

The questions captured a deep sense of loss that afflicted a company that had once defined modern magazines, although it was not clear yet, "It was once a very powerful, very important, very profitable force in the global publishing industry and a major player in the world of journalism," John Huey, the editor-in-chief of Time. Inc. from 2006 to 2012, said Monday. "Now he's a badly injured animal."

Meredith's top executives, however, were more optimistic. "This is really a transformative moment for Meredith Corporation," said Stephen M. Lacy, the chief executive, during a phone call with investors Monday morning.

Over the course of an hour, Mr. Lacy and other company leaders addressed questions from badysts about their strategy. Although the call apparently helped electrify Wall Street – Meredith's share price rose more than 10 percent that day – it did not stifle anxiety among people who worked for the company he had acquired.

In an interview Monday night, Thomas H. Harty, president and chief operating officer of Meredith, said his company had not made any decisions about the sale of Time Inc. titles, although he did not openly reject the idea. .

"We really do not have any particular plan for any part of the portfolio yet," he said. He added that Time, Fortune, Money and Sports Illustrated were "truly iconic brands that have underperformed."

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Mr. Harty also said that Meredith "had no plans to move any editorial or sales and marketing work from New York" and did not expect "in the immediate future" to take Time Inc. employees out of their current offices. He added that there are likely to be layoffs at Time Inc., which has drastically reduced the size of its workforce over the past decade.


Time Inc., the publisher of Time, Fortune, Sports Illustrated and People, had been staggering since it split from Time Warner in 2014.

Mark Lennihan / Associated Press

Meredith makes an unlikely concierge for Time Inc. A media company based on publications celebrating domestic life, has shown no past interest in current events, celebrities, sports and business, the same issues that make up most of the material in the best-known Time Inc. magazines

] In 2013, an agreement between Meredith and Time Inc. collapsed because Meredith did not want to acquire four of Time Inc's signature publications: Time, Sports Illustrated , Fortune and Money.

Meredith may try to sell titles such as Time, Fortune and Sports Illustrated after the deal closes, and some current and former Time Inc. employees have wondered if the Kochs might be interested in buying them or do not.

"I think if we were being a bit paranoid, we would say:" Yes, it looks like the Kochs will take those titles, "said Reed Phillips, managing partner of investment bank Oaklins DeSilva & Phillips. "But really, I do not think it works that way."

Spokespeople for Meredith and Koch Industries have said that the Kochs would have no influence on magazines. Koch Equity Development, the private capital division of Koch Industries through which Meredith received a $ 650 million injection, will not have a seat on the board. Meredith said the firm "would not influence Meredith's editorial or management operations."

In a merger agreement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday, Meredith said that Koch Equity Development would meet with the company's senior management four times a year and would have the right to appoint an observer to attend the meetings. Board meetings, if Meredith refused to pay the company the expected dividend.

"We have agreed to meet with them as we do with any other Wall Street badyst," Mr. Harty said.

He added that Meredith's management team had never discussed the deal with the Kochs. "Nobody has ever met the Koch brothers," he said.

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The sale of Time Inc. underscored how much the publisher has fallen since his days as an arbiter of American culture. From their cavernous offices inside the Time-Life building overlooking the Rockefeller Center, the Time Inc. editors once caught the attention of presidents and shaped the global discourse.

Time magazine made the news accessible in staccato reports. Life magazine, in its full-scale heyday, captured world leaders, Hollywood stars and soldiers at war through vivid photography and silky prose. Sports Illustrated was a bible for fans of Muhammad Ali, Willie Mays and Michael Jordan.

Fortune was not limited to the titans of industry, but also to people living in poverty, as it did to "People and places in trouble," a photo essay by Walker Evans. And People magazine marked the beginning of the fame of modern culture by making celebrities seem relatable and ordinary people look like stars.

Time Inc. had apparently found a way to stay vibrant in the new century when it merged with Warner Bros. in 1989. In 2014, however, it found itself separated from Time Warner. Since then, he has struggled to compensate for the sharp drops in print advertising and circulation.

With a scattered business strategy, it now offers pet insurance and a Sports Illustrated subscription service for Amazon. Perhaps his biggest claim to fame in recent months was some unsolicited attention. Time received from President Trump over the weekend on his "Person of the Year" theme.

"The reality is that it was a printing company that produced great consumer brands, but they were not brands for which it was easy to make a transition in the mobile era," said Norman Pearlstine, a veteran Time Inc. executive and publisher in chief from 1995 to 2005.

"You can point out a lot of things that could have been done differently or that could have been done better," he added, "but I'm not sure any of that could have overcome that basic reality. "

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