By Jessica Toonkel and Liana B. Baker

By Jessica Toonkel and Liana B. Baker

 

(Reuters) - U.S. media company Meredith Corp has hired advisers to explore a sale of its Time, Fortune, Money and Sports Illustrated magazines following its $1.84 billion acquisition of Time Inc in January, people familiar with the matter said.

 

The move illustrates how Meredith sees some of Time Inc's titles that attract primarily male readership as not playing to its core strength in women's magazines, which include Better Homes & Gardens, Family Circle and Martha Stewart Living.

 

The Des Moines, Iowa-based company has tapped investment banks Citigroup Inc and Houlihan Lokey Inc to find potential buyers for the magazines, the sources said this week. There is no certainty that a divestiture will occur, the sources added.

 

While it's possible that media, telecommunications or technology companies could express an interest in the magazines, a sale to wealthy individuals, such as philanthropists or billionaires, is viewed by Meredith as more likely, according to one of the sources.

 

The sources asked not to be identified because details of the sale process are confidential. Citigroup declined to comment, while Houlihan Lokey did not immediately return a request for comment.

"We are in fact exploring a number of additional changes to the (magazine) portfolio, including divestitures of brands and businesses that might perform better under a different owner," Meredith CEO Steven Lacy told investors at a Deutsche Bank conference earlier this month.

Time Inc referred calls to Meredith, which declined to comment beyond reiterating that the company is reviewing its portfolio.

It was not clear how much the magazines could be worth. Fortune and Money generated more than $20 million in 12-month earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBIDTA), while Time generated more than $30 million in 12-month EBITDA, according to one of the people.

The potential divestitures underscore how Time Inc's primary attraction for Meredith was building scale in digital advertising. With its roots in traditional publishing, Meredith has been in a fierce competitive online race against internet giants such as Alphabet Inc’s Google and Facebook Inc for consumer eyeballs and advertising dollars.

The deal with Time Inc expanded Meredith's reach with internet-savvy millennials, creating a digital media business with 170 million monthly unique visitors in the United States and more than 10 billion annual video views.

Meredith's acquisition of Time Inc was aided by a $650 million investment from the private equity arm of Charles and David Koch, the billionaire brothers known for championing conservative political causes.

(This version of the story has been refiled to fix company RIC in first paragraph)

(Reporting By Jessica Toonkel in New York and Liana B. Baker in New Orleans; Additional reporting by Greg Roumeliotis in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)