Chris Hughes Plans to Sell The New Republic
The Facebook co-founder, who purchased a majority stake in 2012, says the brand "needs a new vision that only a new owner can bring."
The New Republic is seeking a new buyer.
One year after a frequency reduction, the mass exodus of dozens of editors, and a move to New York, Chris Hughes, the Facebook co-founder who bought a majority stake in The New Republic in 2012, announced today that he's putting the century-old magazine up for sale.
"I underestimated the difficulty of transitioning an old and traditional institution into a digital media company in today's quickly evolving climate," Hughes explained in a staff memo Monday morning announcing his plans to sell. "After investing a great deal of time, energy, and over $20 million, I have come to the conclusion that it is time for new leadership and vision at The New Republic."
The magazine Hughes purchased in 2012 was one with an uncertain future. The New Republic was in the thick of a transition from a weekly print product to a biweekly print and web hybrid, and its profitability was questionable.
"It’s hard for me to imagine a future ten years from now where print still has the same penetration and the same reach that it does today," Hughes had told Folio: at the time. "Even if print is important now, in the next few years digital is going to be even more important."
Within two years, Hughes brought in Yahoo! News chief Guy Vidra as CEO, who declared his intention to revive the brand as a "vertically-integrated digital media company." Print frequency was cut again—down to 10 issues per year—and an internal staff crisis was triggered.
In the end, nearly 30 staffers, including editor Franklin Foer, resigned (or were forced out, depending on who you ask), many of them expressing dissatisfaction with the direction in which Hughes and Vidra were taking the company.
"As many know, in 2014 I broke with legacy editors over fundamental questions of how digitally-oriented and business-focused this place should be," Hughes writes in the memo. "It was clear then, as it is now, that any acrimony was motivated by deep passion and care for an institution that is bigger than any one of us."
"Over the past few years we have made good progress in reinvigorating this institution," Hughes continues, citing a younger and more diverse audience that has mostly arrived through The New Republic's digital channels, as well as the company's newly-launched brand marketing studio, Novel.
"We have made it possible for The New Republic to survive and begin to flourish in its second century," adds Hughes.
Naming digital-first organizations like Vox, Vice, Buzzfeed, and Mic as examples of companies who've found sucess putting quality journalism front-and-center, Hughes writes that The New Republic "needs a new vision that only a new owner can bring."
Hughes ends the memo by stating that he'll be holding conversations with interested parties in the coming weeks, suggesting that one possibility could include The New Republic living as a "center-left institute of ideas" within a larger digital media company.
"As these conversations unfold, our staff will remain in place and fully supported over the coming weeks," Hughes concludes. "It’s time for the next chapter to begin."