Elevation takes stake in Forbes

Private equity firm Elevation Partners, which counts U2 frontman Bono as a founding partner, has acquired a minority stake in the family-owned media giant Forbes.

Elevation Partners, the New York-based private equity firm, has acquired a minority stake in the private, family-owned media company Forbes. JP Morgan Securities was the sole advisor to Forbes for the transaction. Terms were not disclosed, but unconfirmed sources told the New York Times that more than a 40 percent stake was sold, for as much as $300 million (€234 million).

Forbes, which has been a family-run operation since its founding in 1917, is primarily known as the publisher of its eponymous business magazine, and its international publication Forbes Asia, which have a combined circulation of five million. Among its other holdings are a conference business, an investment advisory group, and several other business- and history-related magazines. But the real success story is its internet business, Forbes.com, which now averages 15 million unique visitors each month, making it the number-one business website in the world.

Indeed, the Forbes web success appears to have been a major factor in Elevation’s decision to invest. “The print media is being transformed by technology, and Forbes has done a brilliant job of adapting its business to the new model,” said Elevation partner Roger McNamee in a statement.

Elevation Partners was formed in 2004, and is a $1.9 billion (€1.5 billion) private equity firm. One of its managing directors and co-founders is Bono (born Paul Hewson), the philanthropic lead singer of the Irish rock band U2, which naturally got the fledgling fund some early press. But its list of partners includes some heavy hitters in the private equity world, including Silver Lake Partners co-founders McNamee and Marc Bodnick, as well as Bret Pearlman, former senior managing director of The Blackstone Group. Other partners include former Apple Computer CFO Fred Anderson, and the former COO of videogame company Electronic Arts, John Riccitiello.

Elevation focuses on investing in intellectual property and content-oriented business, as well as traditional media outlets. Its portfolio companies include the videogame developers BioWare and Pandemic Studios, and Move, a network of real-estate websites.