Saturday, November 28

Bonnier taps new CEO amid deal to sell US publications

Bonnier, the 216-year-old Swedish publishing giant that owns Field & Stream, Popular Science and Saveur, has changed the CEO of its American operation as it nears a deal to sell off its US-based titles.

Eric Zinczenko, a 14-year veteran of Bonnier Corp who has spent the past four years as CEO of the US unit, is exiting and will be replaced by chief operating officer David Ritchie.

After years of cutbacks, the company in May decided to toss in the towel on America, and officially put the entire operation on the block and is apparently close to a deal.

“We received a dozen initial bids and after concluding the management meetings with these prospective buyers, we are currently evaluating the merits of five strong final bids,” said a spokeswoman.

She added that “all potential buyers have media/digital backgrounds,” but would not disclose their identities.

Bonnier taps new CEO amid deal to sell US publications
Field & Stream is one of the best-known magazines owned by Bonnier.WireImage

For Bonnier, still privately owned by the Bonnier family, the timing could not have been worse as it expanded beyond its European base to establish an American toehold. Its biggest deal came in 2007 when it paid $225 million to buy 18 titles from Time Inc. which included its Time 4 Media Group and the Parenting Group before the Great Recession took hold the following year.

At the time, Bonnier’s US operations were projected to have revenue of $350 million and its parent company had soared to $2.9 billion in annual revenue. Its current US revenue after years of cuts is estimated to be only $30 million.

More recently it has been forced to endure the digital onslaught. In 2018, it laid off 17 percent of its staff. Rushing to keep pace, it folded or converted to digital-only eight motorcycle titles that it had acquired several years earlier, keeping only Cycle World in print.

Last year, Bonnier sold off Scuba Diving and Sports Diver. Many of its remaining titles cut frequency. Field & Stream and Popular Science, once selling over a million copies each monthly, are now only quarterly print and digital.

Saveur, the award-winning foodie title, was supposed to be three times a year but skipped one print issue.