Group Black in Talks to Buy Sports Illustrated Publisher

From a Wall Street Journal story by Alexandra Bruell and Jessica Toonkel headlined “Group Black in Talks to Buy Sports Illustrated Publisher”

Group Black is in talks to buy a majority stake in the publisher of Sports Illustrated, its latest attempt to expand the ad inventory it can sell to marketers interested in Black-owned media.

The discussions with the Arena Group are part of a continuing effort by Group Black to forge fresh deals that allow the Black-owned media company to sell its advertising space. Arena owns more than 50 publications including Men’s Journal, Parade Media and TheStreet, and has a 100-year license from Authentic Brands Group to publish Sports Illustrated.

Several marketers have committed to spending a certain portion of their advertising budgets with Black and minority-owned media companies in recent years, but have said they struggle to find ad space that fits the bill. Group Black has tried to address that issue by accumulating ad inventory that it can sell to marketers to fulfill those goals.

Discussions between Group Black and the Arena Group are ongoing, and a deal may not materialize. Shares in Arena Group closed Monday up about 12% to $4.11.

Group Black this month said it has a deal with Comcast’s NBCUniversal to sell ads in shows on its Peacock streaming service that are popular among Black audiences.

Group Black has recently considered large acquisitions, including for Paramount’s BET, Vice Media and Bustle Digital Group, though such a deal hasn’t materialized.

Co-founded in 2021 by Black entrepreneurs Travis Montaque, Richelieu Dennis and Bonin Bough, the company launched with a commitment from ad-buying giant WPP to spend $75 million of its client ad budgets with Group Black’s member companies.

Group Black describes itself as a collective and isn’t the majority owner of its member companies, which include Richelieu Dennis-owned Essence magazine, audio company Pod Digital, and entertainment news sites Shade Room. It works with those publishers on matters such as ad commitments and measurement.

Group Black works with more than 200 companies and has attracted about $500 million in ad-spending commitments from companies such as Procter & Gamble, as well as ad-holding companies WPP, Dentsu and Interpublic Group.

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