NY Times, The Athletic End Talks On Takeover

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The New York Times and The Athletic have ended a second round of talks about a potential Times acquisition of the sports subscription website, sources confirmed to OutKick on Thursday.

The sides were discussing a Times takeover for the second time in two months, but negotiations flamed out after the two couldn’t agree on a price. The Times also balked at The Athletic’s ideas on how employees would be compensated for the equity they hold in the company.

There are no plans for a third round of talks.

The Athletic has approached several potential buyers since the start of the coronavirus pandemic more than a year ago, and even discussed a possible merger with news site Axios. Once the idea of a merger was shot down, The Athletic turned to the Times. But Bloomberg reported in early May that the first round of talks between the Times and The Athletic didn’t get very far.

As of late last week, the second round of bargaining between The Athletic and the Times seemed to be picking up some steam, sources said. But they eventually reached an impasse.

Meanwhile, Amazon and several other tech companies turned The Athletic away fairly quickly, sources said, which may leave the site’s current business strategy on shaky ground.

While subscriptions are steady, sources told OutKick in April that The Athletic has experienced a sharp decline in renewals since June 2020. The Athletic does not carry advertising.

One investor told OutKick last month that he feared a “major shakeup in operations” if a business partner or buyer wasn’t located soon. When reached by OutKick on Thursday, the investor confirmed that talks with the Times were off, but declined to comment beyond that.

Co-founders Alex Mather and Adam Hansmann launched The Athletic in 2016 with the idea of generating all its revenue from subscriptions and renewals.

“We will wait every local paper out and let them continuously bleed until we are the last ones standing,” Mather told the Times in 2017. “We will suck them dry of their best talent at every moment. We will make business extremely difficult for them.”

While The Athletic has indeed been successful in landing many of the world’s most talented sportswriters, it’s becoming more evident the site will need a financial lifeline to keep things running.

Written by Sam Amico

Sam Amico spent 15 years covering the NBA for Sports Illustrated, FOX Sports and NBA.com, along with a few other spots, and currently runs his own basketball website on the side, FortyEightMinutes.com.


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  1. The Athletic just had to go woke, following the sports leagues and athletes down the rabbit hole of alienating half their potential customer base. That’s risky for long-time businesses that qualify as national pastimes and ways of life but it’s absurd for a start-up trying to woo the public. Would The Athletic be lacking in any way if it didn’t indulge its SJW writers? Nope. It would have broader appeal. But these narcissists can’t help themselves these days. They crave the warm fuzzy feelings and the chest-puffing (in lieu of lifting a damn finger for their pet causes privately in their spare time).

  2. I was an orginal subscriber to that company. After three years, I stopped because of the editorial bent of just about every writer.

    The Athletic discovered the hard way that a large percentage of middle class American sports fans are more moderate to conservative in their political views. The employees who took ownership stakes in leau of financial compensation are going to end up out in the cold with nothing. It’s their own fault.

    The Athletic is a worthless dumpster fire.

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