Forbes Nears Deal With Investor Group for Under $800 Million

Forbes is in advanced talks to sell itself to a group of investors, a company spokesman said, approaching a deal that would bring the chronicler of the wealthy and powerful under new ownership.

Forbes had been seeking at least $800 million in a sale, but the final price will most likely be below that, according to two people familiar with the matter. The group of bidders includes investors from the United States and overseas, said Bill Hankes, the spokesman, on Wednesday.

Mike Federle, the chief executive of Forbes, confirmed the talks in a memo to employees on Wednesday.

“The potential acquirer is a consortium of family offices and global investors that is strategically aligned with the Forbes executive team and our goals for growing the company,” Mr. Federle wrote.

Founded as a magazine in 1917, Forbes is known for its rankings of wealthy businesspeople. Like most magazines, Forbes has suffered in recent years from a declining print advertising business, which it has sought to replace with revenue from sponsored events featuring prominent speakers and franchises like “30 Under 30,” which recognizes influential professionals across many different sectors.

Forbes said earlier this year that its business was sizable and growing quickly. In February, the company said it generated $259 million in revenue in 2021, an increase of 40 percent from the previous year.

In recent years, Forbes has focused on expanding its international business, which has found favor with global investors. In 2014, the Forbes family sold a majority stake in the company to Integrated Whale Media Investments, a group that includes the Hong Kong investor Tak Cheung Yam and Wayne Hsieh, the Singaporean co-founder of AsusTek Computer.

Like many media companies, Forbes has struggled to justify a lofty valuation to public market investors. It scrapped a deal with a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, earlier this year that would have taken the company public at a valuation of $630 million, as regulatory scrutiny slowed investor enthusiasm for Wall Street’s once-favorite product.

Business publications have been popular targets for deal makers in recent years because they can attract wealthy advertisers and subscribers. News Corp’s Dow Jones unit, which publishes The Wall Street Journal, acquired Investor’s Business Daily last year, citing the company’s growing research business. Red Ventures, a digital-media company backed by private equity, acquired Bankrate, a financial-focused publisher, for $1.4 billion in 2017.

Fortune, one of Forbes’s longtime rivals, was sold in 2018 to Chatchaval Jiaravanon, a Thai businessman, for $150 million.