A fresh round of rumors about Condé Nast were ignited over the weekend — this time by a report that Apple could be eyeing all or part of the glitzy publisher of Vogue, Vanity Fair and the New Yorker.
The Guardian cited no sources and reported it only as a rumor, although one that has gained more currency in recent months. Condé Nast, for its part, was quick to shoot it down on Monday.
“We are not sale,” said Conde Nast CEO Bob Sauerberg. Still, it is a rumor that has been hard to shake.
“With budgets reduced, especially for print, Condé Nast is in a very vulnerable position,” said industry consultant Steve Blacker, noting that rivals Meredith and Hearst are now both bigger.
A sale price could be anywhere from $1 billion to $2 billion if a bidding war erupts, according to Blacker.
Insiders say that Condé Nast is also embarking on a new round of cost-cutting as it begins to implement the plan outlined by the McKinsey consulting firm to cut estimated 2017 losses of over $100 million on revenues close to $1 billion.
The rumors come on the brink of Apple’ s Tuesday quarterly earnings report.
Gene Munster, a co-founder at Loup Ventures, said that Apple could be interested because hardware sales tied to the iPhone have slowed and weighed on its stock price. It opened the year trading at $172.26 a share and closed Monday at $165.40.
Apple’s service business, however, which includes iTunes, iCloud, and the App Store, are expected to be up about 18 percent in the quarter.
“We bet that content is not just going to be video and music, it is going to include written content,” said Munster. “Apple tipped their hand with their recent acquisition of Texture. They would not have done that if they were not interested in print.”
Texture, described as a Hulu of magazines, offers access to tablet version of print magazines for a low monthly price and was owned by a number of publishers including Meredith, Hearst, Condé Nast, Rogers Communications and News Corp, which owns The Post.
There are of course skeptics. “Conde Nast is still 90 percent an advertising business. It would be very surprising if Apple wanted to take on an ad sales organization,” one executive close to the publisher said.
He also said that the Newhouse family that owns Conde Nast is not cash-strapped by any means, thanks to its successful cable divestments and ownership of the Discovery Channel.
“I think you’ll see a lot of Conde Nast for sale rumors, but I think they’d rather sit on these assets for the time being and see what they can make of them on the digital front in the next year to 18 months.”
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