For National Geographic magazine, it’s in with Rupert Murdoch and out with non-profit status.
At least one big change is on the way for the 127-year-old publication, thanks to a new deal with 21st Century Fox (FOX). In an agreement announced Wednesday, Fox will pay $725 million for a 73% stake in a new partnership with the National Geographic Society (which will remain a non-profit organization) that includes the iconic science and nature magazine as well as the National Geographic Channel and the Society’s other media assets.
National Geographic and Fox previously partnered nearly two decades ago for the 1997 launch of the cable channel, which reaches more than 86 million households in the U.S. and is already co-owned by the two entities.
The new agreement means that National Geographic magazine, which had been a non-profit publication since its 1888 founding, will become the latest entity folded into the vast media empire controlled by Murdoch when the deal closes later this year. The deal also pushes the National Geographic Society’s total endowment to nearly $1 billion.
James Murdoch, the son of Rupert Murdoch and the recently appointed CEO of 21st Century Fox, said in the press release announcing the deal that Fox is “working hard to focus our portfolio on brands that have unquestionable consumer appeal.”
Murdoch also told the Washington Post that Fox has no plans to tinker with National Geographic magazine, a monthly publication with roughly 3.5 million subscribers. The magazine has spent the past several years working to reach a larger audience with its digital offerings, which is an area of specialty for the younger Murdoch, who helped steer some of Fox’s online video and advertising investments in recent years. In his statement on Wednesday, Murdoch called National Geographic “one of the most treasured names in the world” while predicting that the partnership would lead to greater digital success for the brand.
Declan Moore, the Society’s current chief media officer, will serve as CEO of the new partnership, called National Geographic Partners. National Geographic will own the remaining 27% of the partnership, with Society CEO Gary Knell serving as the first chairman of the partnership’s board of directors.
Knell said in a statement that money from the Fox deal, “including the consistent and attractive revenue stream that National Geographic Partners will deliver,” will help to fund the Society’s scientific work and exploration, by helping support funding grants for that work.
“As media organizations work to meet the increasing demand for high quality storytelling across multiple platforms, it’s clear that the opportunity to grow by more closely aligning our branded content and licensing assets is the right path,” he said.