Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Time Out Chicago -- it can be yours

Posted By on 12.03.08 at 05:50 PM

Want to buy half of a magazine that in a devastating economic climate is still trying to turn a profit? That would be Time Out Chicago, whose New York investors want out.

The Times of London reports that those New York investors control two-thirds of the stock in 13-year-old Time Out New York, and they've forced Time Out founder Tony Elliott in London to reluctantly put TONY up for sale, the asking price being $40 million. Time Out New York owns half of four-year-old Time Out Chicago -- Joe Mansueto of Morningstar owns the rest -- and the New Yorkers want to unload that too.

Frank Sennett, editor in chief of TOC, emphasizes that everything is very hazy and exploratory. He doesn't know whether the $40 million figure would include the Chicago piece of the operation, or if that's for sale separately. He says no one knows whether in this climate $40 million is close to being a price anyone would want to pay. He thinks Elliott, who comes to town periodically to kick the tires, might hang on to his third of TONY's half of TOC even if his New York partners sell out. Sennett says he does know that Mansueto isn't interested in selling his half of TOC.

Elliott launched Time Out in London 40 years ago, and even though the brand has spread to 16 countries, largely through franchises, Elliott's always felt undercapitalized. In this recent interview he ruminates about changing the business model in London, moving strictly online and offering his content for nothing. But like so many other publishers with the same idea, he sounds seriously doubtful about the ability of advertising to pay the freight.

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