Time Inc. May Look at Further Spinoffs

New CEO Joe Ripp won't rule out selling magazines

Time Warner decided earlier this year to spin off its publishing arm, but Joe Ripp, Time Inc.’s newly named CEO, hinted at more possible deals by the publisher of Time and People.

Ripp said the company needed to stay open to the possibility of whether its titles could be worth more to a buyer.

“That’s a question we should all be asking ourselves,” he said.

Earlier this year, Time Warner was in talks with women-aimed media company Meredith Corp. to merge their publishing units. Those talks fell apart, though, and Time Warner subsequently announced it would spin off its publishing division. But Time Inc.’s Lifestyle division, which includes titles like Real Simple and Cooking Light, have long been seen as a sale target, and Meredith CEO Stephen Lacy has said he remains interested in the chance for the two companies to work together.

Time Inc. not only belongs to a shrinking industry, but also represents a disparate collection of brands, from the male-focused weekly magazine Sports Illustrated to women’s fashion monthly InStyle. That’s not necessarily an easy sale to Wall Street.

Ripp comes with the advantage of being a former insider (he held a number of executive-level positions at Time Inc. and Time Warner before leaving in 2004) with outside public-company experience.

“He was really good at understanding the financial dynamics, and all of the senior management of the company when he was CFO looked to Joe as the guy to trust,” said Andy Sareyan, a former longtime Time Inc. exec. 

Time Inc. was a different place back then, though. The company was more male-focused than it is now, as Real Simple and InStyle either hadn't launched or were in their infancy. Both are now seen as core to the company.

Ripp, speaking from Nantucket, where he said he’s on a working vacation, acknowledged Time Inc.’s challenges as a print publisher and the need to better deploy its brands across other platforms.

“There are significant challenges, as everyone knows,” he said. “I’m not blind to that.”

However, Ripp said that Time Inc. has big advantages in its broad reach across U.S. consumers, its consumer marketing machine and its editorial talent.

“I think people would die for that,” he said.

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