Time Inc. hired banks to help field takeover or partnership interest after the country's largest magazine publisher received overtures from a group of media investors including Edgar Bronfman Jr.
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The company tapped Morgan Stanley and Bank of America Corp., according to people familiar with the matter. It is far from guaranteed there will be a sale of the company or any other deal.
Time Inc., owner of well-known titles including Time and People, has been grappling with declining advertising and newsstand revenue, along with other legacy print publishers. Last month, the company reported that revenue fell 3% year-over-year to $750 million in the third quarter. The publisher reduced its full-year revenue guidance to flat-to-1%-lower compared with an earlier forecast of an increase of up to 1.5%. It has been racing to develop new lines of digital business to offset steady print-advertising declines.
Time Inc. shares have ground lower since it became an independent public company in 2014. In its first day of trading on the New York Stock Exchange in June of that year, Time Inc. shares opened at $23.09. They have since fallen as the company and the industry's prospects diminish, and traded at less than $14 before the Bronfman group's interest surfaced last month. The stock has since jumped and traded at $16.60 midday Thursday.
The company's woes helped draw investor Jana Partners LLC, which took a roughly 5% stake. Time Inc. in September named Rich Battista chief executive, succeeding Joe Ripp, who remains executive chairman.
Mr. Bronfman is the former CEO of Warner Music Group and now has his own private-equity firm. His partners in the Time Inc. effort include media executive Ynon Kreiz and billionaire Len Blavatnik. They bid $18 a share for the company, which Time Inc. rebuffed, people familiar with the matter have said.
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The group remains interested, a person familiar with the matter said Thursday.
It isn't clear who else might be interested in Time Inc. One potential bidder, according to bankers and investors, is Meredith Corp., a Des Moines-based company that owns 17 TV stations and magazine titles including Shape, Family Circle and Better Homes and Gardens.
Time Inc. nearly did a deal with Meredith in 2013, when Jeff Bewkes, then-CEO of the company's parent, tried to sell it most of its magazines�excluding Fortune, Time and Sports Illustrated. After those talks unraveled, then-parent Time Warner Inc. spun off Time Inc. as an independent, publicly traded company.
In an interview earlier this week, Steve Lacy, Meredith's CEO, said: "I want to be clear: There have been absolutely no meaningful conversations between our two companies since 2013."
Mr. Lacy, however, expressed respect for Time Inc.'s portfolio and wouldn't say whether Meredith intends to approach Time Inc. about a possible bid in the near future. He added: "They aren't the only party in the marketplace that would be of interest to us."
Meredith has enjoyed a strong year despite the collapse in January of its pending merger with Media General Inc., which was upended by Nexstar Broadcasting Group Inc. Meredith, however, walked away with a $60 million breakup fee. On July 21, investors drove up Meredith shares to an 8� -year high.
Other magazine owners are expected to at least take a look at part or all of Time Inc.
Dana Cimilluca contributed to this article
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