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Forbes has agreed to go public via a merger with a special purpose acquisition company that values the US business news outlet at $630m, making it the latest in a string of eye-catching deals in the media industry.
News of the deal came as Axel Springer, the German publishing group backed by private equity firm KKR, struck a deal to buy Politico as it continues an expansion into US media.
Axel Springer and Politico did not disclose the terms of the transaction but two people familiar with the deal said it valued the political news service at more than $1bn.
The Forbes agreement with Magnum Opus Acquisition, backed by the private investment firm L2 Capital, will mean the US business publication will receive $600m, including cash raised by the Spac as well as commitments from other investors.
Forbes, founded by Bertie Charles Forbes and Walter Drey more than a century ago, published its first issue in 1917 and is known for tracking the world’s wealthiest individuals.
The deal, led by Jonathan Lin, a former portfolio manager at Steve Cohen’s hedge fund Point72 Asset Management, followed a series of recent media sector deals.
Berlin-based Axel Springer has pursued expansion beyond its domestic market in recent years.
Since missing out on the sale of the Financial Times six years ago, the publisher of Germany’s Die Welt and Bild has bought online news site Business Insider for $343m in 2015. More recently, it purchased a majority stake in newsletter publisher Morning Brew.
Axel Springer is already in a 50/50 joint venture with Politico for a Europe-focused version of its website. Thursday’s deal included the remaining 50 per cent of Politico Europe as well as Protocol, a technology news website also founded and controlled by Politico publisher Robert Allbritton.
The acquisition of Politico had been mooted for several years, although more recently Axel Springer’s chief executive Mathias Döpfner had also considered other acquisitions, among them Axios, a digital news company launched by former Politico journalists.
Axel Springer’s decision to delist in early 2020 after KKR became its largest shareholder has allowed the media group to accelerate investments in digital media free from the scrutiny of public investors.
The company also operates one of the world’s largest portfolios of digital classified businesses, which includes the jobs portal StepStone as well as property sites such as Immonet.
Politico launched in 2007 with two former Washington Post journalists at the helm and funding from Allbritton. The Virginia-based company has over the past decade taken on bigger competitors such as the Washington Post and upended the political press in Washington.
In 2014, Politico teamed up with Axel Springer to launch the Brussels-based Politico Europe.
In a statement, Allbritton said growth would be “better advanced by a larger company with a significant global footprint” and called his 15 years at Politico “the ride of a lifetime”.