Hong Kong investor group buys majority stake in Forbes Media

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 July, 2014, 1:58am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 July, 2014, 11:57am

A Hong Kong-based investor group is buying a majority stake in Forbes Media, with plans to help accelerate the brand's expansion beyond its media roots to education, financial services, real estate and technology licence agreements.

The buyer, Integrated Whale Media Investments, is a newly formed group of international investors led by Tak Cheung Yam, chairman of Integrated Asset Management, and Singapore-based Wayne Hsieh, co-founder of Asustek Computer, one of the world's leading personal computer vendors.

The deal was announced late last night for an undisclosed amount, but a Bloomberg report placed a US$475 million valuation on the group. Expected to be completed sometime later this year, the transaction will see private equity firm Elevation Partners fully exit Forbes. In 2006, the PE firm bought a 45 per cent stake for about US$265 million. The Forbes family will retain a sizeable share of the business, the announcement said.

Forbes had been searching for a buyer for about a year. A leaked management note to prospective buyers last year - which reportedly included Fosun International, Singapore's Spice Global Investments and German publisher Axel Springer - said it expected to generate US$21 million in profit on sales of US$145 million.

Steve Forbes, editor-in-chief and grandson of the group's original co-founder Bertie Charles Forbes, took to the website to explain the purchase.

"Our transaction will enable us to maintain and speed up the editorial momentum of recent years. It will also rapidly expand the extension of the Forbes brand into promising areas such as education, financial services, real estate and technology licence agreements," he wrote.

Yam, whose prior investments have focused on telecommunications, finance, and technology said: "As more market-based economies emerge globally, interest in the information that Forbes provides and the message it delivers resonates with a growing audience. Given the tremendous growth of digital in the past decade, Forbes Media's future plans will include additional internet and social media expansion projects."

In January, Forbes launched its own mini social media network called Stream, which allows readers to collate and share content from across the group's publications. It also plans to spin off its luxury lifestyle magazine Forbes Life, into its own digital website in September.

Forbes Media's current management team will remain in place, with Steve Forbes as chairman and editor-in-chief, Mike Perlis as president and chief executive, and its Asia business led by Will Adamopoulos.

Anchored by its flagship Forbes magazine which dates back to 1917, the media group estimates it reaches 75 million people worldwide across print, digital, television, conferences, and research initiatives. It is known for its annual ranking of the world's wealthiest people.

Deutsche Bank served as financial adviser for the deal.