End of an Era: Rolling Stone Is for Sale

Financial pressures were too tough for the independent publisher
By Linda Hervieux,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 18, 2017 5:33 AM CDT
End of an Era: Rolling Stone Is for Sale
A May 8, 1979, file photo of Jann Wenner, who founded "Rolling Stone" as a 20-year-old college dropout.   (AP Photo/Suzanne Vlamis, File)

After nearly a half-century tracking trends in rock and culture, Rolling Stone is up for sale. Trailblazing editor Jann Wenner, 71, tells the New York Times he is making way for new blood by hawking his 51% controlling stake in the magazine. "I love my job,” says Wenner, but selling is "just the smart thing to do." Wenner Media confirms the sale to NBC News, saying it was investigating "strategic options ... to best position the brand for future growth." Wenner sold 49% of his stake in Rolling Stone in 2013, and more recently two other magazines run by Wenner Media. But those moves weren't enough to turn the financial tide after decades of plummeting ad revenue. "There’s a level of ambition that we can’t achieve alone," his son and company president, Gus Wenner, tells the Times. "So we are being proactive ... Publishing is a completely different industry than what it was."

Gus Wenner, who crafted the sale, and his father say they'd like to stay on, though they recognize the new buyer might wish otherwise. But Jann Wenner concedes that "it's time for young people" to have a crack at running the glossy known for its edgy pieces—but badly bruised by a $3 million libel verdict over the botched University of Virginia gang rape story. The sale process is just beginning. One candidate is American Media, which recently bought Wenner Media's other titles, Us Weekly and Men's Journal. Music critic Anthony DeCurtis worries over the magazine's future. "That sense of the magazine editor’s hands on the magazine," he tells the Times, "that’s what’s going to get lost here." (Vanity Fair announced its own "changing of the guard.")

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