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article imageCounterculture icon 'Rolling Stone' up for sale

By Ken Hanly     Sep 18, 2017 in Business
New York City - Jann Wenner was just 21 years old when he started the paper "Rolling Stone" that became an icon of the counterculture for baby boomers. Aspiring stars lined up to get on the cover.
Wenner founded the magazine in 1967, along with the music producer Ralph Gleason. It was known at first for its musical coverage and political reporting. After almost 50 years of publishing Rolling Stone, the owners are now seeking a new owner with "lots of money".
As is common with many print media the magazine has suffered a financial toll which in the case of the Rolling Stone was exacerbated by a story it printed three years ago about an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia. The magazine was forced to pay an administrator at the University of Virginia $3 million dollars for defamation. He had asked for $7.5 million: "A 10-person jury, after 20 hours of deliberation, on Friday found reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely, the magazine and publisher Wenner Media defamed Nicole Eramo with malice." The case had a quite negative effect on the paper's journalistic reputation. Of course, piled on top of that controversy comes the constant print media woes of insufficient ad revenues and a lack of new circulation.
Mr. Wenner, now 71 and his son Gus are still in charge of running the magazine. Wenner Sr. acknowledged that the paper would face an uncertain future on its own: “I love my job, I enjoy it, I’ve enjoyed it for a long time... But letting go," he added, was “just the smart thing to do.”
The plans for the sale were the work of Wenner's son Gus who had already been paring back some of the company's assets. In 2016 they sold a 49 percent interest in the magazine to Bandlab Technologies, a music technology company based in Singapore.
Gus Werner said recently in an interview at the magazine headquarters in Manhattan: “There’s a level of ambition that we can’t achieve alone. So we are being proactive and want to get ahead of the curve. Publishing is a completely different industry than what it was. The trends go in one direction, and we are very aware of that.”
A former editor of the magazine, Terry McDonnell said: “Who lives through the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s and cannot be somehow wistful at this moment?”
Standard bearers of the counterculture such as Hunter Thompson and Tom Wolfe wrote many articles for the magazine over the decades. Annie Leibovitz the celebrity photographer provided the magazine with spectacular cover images. As well as its extensive music coverage the magazine became well known for it liberal views and ideology.
Wenner personally interviewed Bill Clinton and Barack Obama among others — while being harshly critical of Republican President George W. Bush, whom the magazine claimed was the "worst president in history". The magazine recently put Justin Trudeau, the Liberal Canadian Prime Minister on its cover with the headline " Why Can't He Be Our President?" The magazine also ran a satirical article by Matt Taibbi that described Goldman Sachs as "a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity".
Jann Wenner once boasted that he had turned down an offer of $500 million for Rolling Stone. However, last year Bandlab was able to buy its 49 percent interest for just $40 million. Wenner has said that he thinks it is time for younger people to run the business. His son Gus hoped that a new owner could provide the capital and other resources that Rolling Stone needed to survive and said of the sale: “It’s what we need to do as a business. It’s what we need to do to grow the brand.”
While both Gus and his father want to stay on with the Rolling Stone the new owner will ultimately decide whether this will happen.
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