Atlantic Media Chairman David G. Bradley announced to The Atlantic staff today that Emerson Collective, the organization founded and run by Laurene Powell Jobs, has agreed to acquire majority ownership of The Atlantic.
The acquisition includes its flagship magazine, digital properties, live events business, and consulting services. Emerson Collective will partner with Bradley, who through Atlantic Media will hold a minority stake and continue to run The Atlantic for at least the next three to five years.
The Atlantic leadership – President, Bob Cohn; Publisher, Hayley Romer; and Editor in Chief, Jeffrey Goldberg – will continue to run day-to-day operations of the company.
Michael Finnegan continues as president of Atlantic Media, working closely with Bradley in oversight of the privately held holding company, which also includes Quartz, National Journal Group, and Government Executive Media Group.
The decision to enter into this partnership is personal for Bradley, 64, who explains in a letter to The Atlantic staff today: " Against the odds, The Atlantic is prospering. While I will stay at the helm some years, the most consequential decision of my career now is behind me: who next will take stewardship of this 160-year-old national treasure? To me, the answer, in the form of Laurene, feels incomparably right.”
When Bradley began more than a year ago considering future owners of The Atlantic, he researched more than 600 possible investors. Powell Jobs and Emerson Collective were at the top of the list and the only prospect he approached.
“What a privilege it is to partner with David Bradley and become a steward of The Atlantic, one of the country's most important and enduring journalistic institutions,” said Powell Jobs. “The Atlantic was co-founded 160 years ago by a group of abolitionists including Ralph Waldo Emerson, who is a primary inspiration for our own work at Emerson Collective. Emerson and his partners, including Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Harriet Beecher Stowe, created a magazine whose mission was to bring about equality for all people; to illuminate and defend the American idea; to celebrate American culture and literature; and to cover our marvelous, and sometimes messy, democratic experiment.”
She added, “Emerson Collective is excited to work with David, with his first-rate leadership team, and with his enormously talented staff, to ensure that The Atlantic continues to fulfill its critical mission at this critical time."
Peter Lattman, managing director of media at Emerson Collective, will become vice chairman of The Atlantic. He will continue in his role at Emerson.
Emerson Collective is an organization dedicated to removing barriers to opportunity so people can live to their full potential. Established and led by Powell Jobs, 53, it centers its work on education, immigration reform, the environment and other social justice initiatives. Emerson Collective has a substantial portfolio of media investments and grants, ranging from film and television production companies to nonprofit journalism organizations.
The partnership between Atlantic Media and Emerson Collective – the terms of which will not be disclosed – comes at a time of significant growth and success for The Atlantic. In the eighteen years since acquiring the flagship magazine from Mortimer B. Zuckerman, Bradley has led the company through a sustained surge in both its editorial and business operations. Digital readership has grown from two million in early 2009 to a monthly average of 33 million unique visitors for the first half of 2017. The company, which early in Bradley’s ownership recorded losses of more than $10 million a year, now, generates profits well above $10 million per year.
In recent years, The Atlantic has transformed its business in response to convulsions in the media world. A decade ago, 85 percent of the company's revenues came from print advertising and print circulation. Since then, revenues have quadrupled while the sources of those funds have flipped: 20 percent of revenue now comes from print, with 80 percent from digital advertising, the AtlanticLive events business, and the Atlantic Media Strategies consulting services.
The company's success has been fueled by a confluence of factors: commitment to editorial excellence across all its publishing platforms; remarkable audience growth; product and sales innovation, including development of a first-in-class branded content studio, Atlantic Re:think; and a multi-platform strategy that delivers Atlantic journalism wherever and however audiences want to consume it.
TheAtlantic.com audience increased 36 percent in the first half of 2017 over the same period last year, punctuated by a spike to a record 42.3 million monthly unique visitors in May. Video plays are up 120 percent year over year. Last week, The Atlantic introduced a podcast, Radio Atlantic, that shot to number one in the iTunes store. Meantime, even as the digital business grows and other platforms proliferate, the print magazine remains central to The Atlantic's rise and core to its future. Circulation has grown to 530,000 readers and, despite an industry decline of 12 percent at the newsstand last year, The Atlantic grew single-copy newsstand sales by 19 percent.
Evercore Partners and Ropes & Gray advised The Atlantic. Emerson Collective was advised by Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati.