Time, Inc Is Running Out- With Offers Due This Week, Time’s Independent Days May Be Over

Time, Inc.(TIME) CEO Rich Battista has big plans for the transformation of the venerable magazine publisher, but it is doubtful that he will be given the time to execute on them. Battista became CEO late last year, replacing Joe Ripp, who had led the company since its 2014 spinoff from Time Warner(TWX).

Rich Battista, the new chief executive of Time Inc., did not seem the outsider. Tieless, with legs crossed, he ticked off his company’s latest accomplishments — robust digital growth, updated advertising capabilities — with the swagger of a knowing publishing chieftain.

“There’s something really exciting happening at our company,” he said, echoing what had become something of a rallying cry at Time Inc. “We’re taking our brand to really exciting new places.”

A former television executive, Mr. Battista, 52, has been charged with revitalizing the most storied magazine publisher in the country. At the helm of the nearly century-old Time Inc. since September, he has quickly worked to transform the home of Time, People and Sports Illustrated into a multimedia, multipurpose company, with a strategy heavy on online video, television and entertainment — and noticeably lighter on magazine journalism. Among the ideas the company has floated: offering people paid services like a food-and-wine club and insurance for pets.

This digital transition is impressive but it is occurring in the shadow of lurking acquirers. No sooner had Battista begun as CEO than prodigal son Edgar Bronfman and his crew offered $18 a share for the company. That offer was rejected, but others, including former suitor Meredith Corp(MDP) have expressed interest. Bloomberg reports that with Bronfman’s group and Meredith, perhaps three other suitors are expected to submit bids for the company by this week’s deadline. The stock has been trading above Bronfman’s previous $18 bid as investors expect the company to receive and accept a higher offer in the near future, bringing an end to the company’s independence, and, likely, to Battista’s plans.

Disclosure: The author holds no position in any stock mentioned