Sports Illustrated gets a new publisher that will keep it in print

Anthony Davis, de los Lakers de Los Ángeles, dispara entre Alperen Sengun y Jabari Smith Jr., de los Rockets de Houston, el domingo 2 de abril de 2023 (AP Foto/Michael Wyke)
Anthony Davis of the Los Angeles Lakers. (Michael Wyke / Associated Press)

Sports Illustrated is getting a lifeline that will keep the iconic title in print after appearing to be on the brink of a closure.

Digital media company Minute Media has agreed to obtain the publishing rights to the property owned by Authentic Brands Group, the firms announced Monday.

New York-based Minute Media owns and operates the digital sports sites the Players’ Tribune and FanSided. Authentic will get an equity stake in the company in return for the Sports Illustrated rights, which include the magazine's annual swimsuit issue.

The licensing deal, which runs for a minimum of 10 years, comes after the title's previous operator, Arena Group, cut most of its editorial staff. The company did the layoffs after missing a quarterly payment to Authentic in January.

Last week, employees were reportedly told that the magazine would have its final issue in May. But Authentic had for months been talking with other media companies about taking over the publication from Arena.

Read more: Union says mass layoffs hitting Sports Illustrated as news media sheds jobs

“In Minute Media we have found a partner that will honor SI’s lauded legacy and exceed fan expectations for the future," said Daniel W. Dienst, executive vice chairman for Authentic. "As Minute Media shepherds the SI brand across a rapidly evolving media landscape, our priority at Authentic is — and has always been — to protect its journalistic integrity and longevity."

Many of the staff members who were laid off could be rehired under the Minute Media deal, according to a person familiar with the plans who was not authorized to comment publicly.

Read more: Entertainment Weekly, InStyle and four other Meredith magazines will cease print publications

Sports Illustrated, launched in 1954 by Henry Luce's Time-Life empire, was long the gold standard of sports journalism, with high-paid, big-name writers and dramatic photography that created powerful lasting images of athletes through the decades.

Like the rest of print journalism, the magazine's circulation went into steady decline as sports information became more available on the internet. The title went to Meredith Corp. in that company's 2018 acquisition of Time Inc. and was then sold to Authentic Brands.

Read more: New L.A. Times Editor Jim Kirk vows 'fresh start' to unify newsroom after turmoil

Authentic licensed the title to Arena Group, a media company then led by veteran executive Ross Levinsohn, who had a brief and controversial stint as publisher of the Los Angeles Times. Arena fired Levinsohn in December.

Under Arena's watch, Sports Illustrated was reportedly publishing stories generated by artificial intelligence. Arena denied the claim but acknowledged that the content had been created by a third-party company at which authors used pseudonyms to protect their identities.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.