Condé Nast's parent company, Advance Publications, has announced that it sold off a chunk of its stock in the cable network Discovery Communications in order to free up $500 million for a digital mergers and acquisitions shopping spree. Steve Newhouse, nephew of Si and possible successor to his media throne, says Advance/Condé will be looking for "opportunities to take advantage of the audience we’ve created through our strong digital brands." Steve Newhouse is head of Advance.net, the company’s digital arm, which also manages its papers' online divisions. He'll help steer the M&A, along with Yahoo's former deals guy, Andrew Siegel. MediaMemo suspects that, like everyone else, Advance has noticed the success of start-ups like Gilt Groupe and Groupon and wondered if maybe they should have been paying attention, seeing as this whole print-media business is looking a little iffy.
With fewer digital companies eyeing a public offering, acquisitions are becoming a larger part of how the new bubblicious crop of tech start-ups are growing and finding an exit for early investors. But when Fred Wilson warned us that billions in the bank meant that Apple, Google, and the like could be poised for a spate of buyouts, we didn't realize floundering media companies would also jump on board.
Dwindling ad revenues and slipping circulations have forced Advance, a $7.2 billion privately held company, into making changes in its media and newspaper divisions, just as it's mulling over which family member will be named Si and Donald Newhouse's successor. It seemed like the brightest spot in the company's balance sheet was its cable division, Bright House Networks, which has grown 40 percent over the past five years. But Bright House is still a small fish in the cable pond and vulnerable to consolidation. Selling off sales in Discovery, the original investment that marked the family's foray into cable, may mean that in an uncertain economic climate, Advance is betting bigger on digital- — and Steve Newhouse.
Conde Nast Gets Ready to Go Shopping, Adds $500 Million and An Ex-Yahoo [MediaMemo/AllThingsD]
Advance Publications at crossroads [Crain's]