Print Edition - 2017-09-20 | Life & Style
Rolling Stone up for sale
- After almost 50 years of seminal covers and epoch-shifting articles, owners seek buyer with ‘lots of money’
-, Los Angeles
Sep 20, 2017-
It is the magazine that described investment bank Goldman Sachs as “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity”, George W Bush as the “worst president in history” and featured a photo of a naked John Lennon curled around Yoko Ono on its front page.
But after almost 50 years of seminal covers and epoch-shifting articles, the owners of Rolling Stone have put the title up for sale amid financial difficulties.
Founded by Jann Wenner in 1967 when he was a 21-year-old hippy student in California, Wenner now runs the rock’n’roll magazine turned liberal cheerleader with his son Gus, president of the family publishing company.
On Sunday, the pair announced they were planning to sell their remaining stake in the title that has ruthlessly skewered public figures and helped to launch the careers of such influential creatives as photographer Annie Leibovitz and the gonzo journalist Hunter S Thompson.
“There’s a level of ambition that we can’t achieve alone,” Gus Wenner, 27, told the New York Times in an interview to announce the search for a buyer. “So we are being proactive and want to get ahead of the curve.”
The pressure on the publishing industry from the rise of the internet, a costly libel battle, and financial deals that with the benefit of hindsight look like unwise have combined to prompt the Wenners to consider their options.
The magazine still revolves around music, film and TV, but has also become renowned for in-depth features and interviews on US culture that have become news themselves.
The cover of Rolling Stone frequently carries provocative images and starring on its cover remains a sought-after honour for musicians and actors. Leibovitz was behind many of Rolling Stone’s most memorable early covers, including the photo of Lennon and Ono in 1981. Lennon was shot dead just hours after the photograph was taken.
Other celebrated contributors to the magazine include Thompson and Tom Wolfe. Thompson’s novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was serialised by Rolling Stone and eventually was adapted into a film, with Johnny Depp playing Thompson.
However, the magazine’s reputation-and finances-were badly damaged when it retracted a 2014 story about an alleged gang-rape at the University of Virginia, with a review finding that Rolling Stone did not undertake basic journalistic procedures to verify the facts. The magazine was last year ordered to pay $3m (£2.2m) in damages over the article after a high-profile trial.
Looking back on the past 50 years, Jann Wenner said he never expected Rolling Stones to branch into politics.
“Back then, if it was a viable music magazine, that would have been the biggest ambition,” Wenner said. “I didn’t envision that it would be a magazine that would be involved in presidential elections and we’d be going to the White House and interviewing the president on Air Force One.
Published: 20-09-2017 08:18