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Make Me Smart with Kai and Molly

Rolling Stone sells almost half of magazine business to Singapore-based startup

Lewis Wallace Sep 26, 2016
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A vendor in Singapore pulls out an issue of Rolling Stone. A Singapore firm linked to one of Asia's richest families has bought a 49 percent stake in Rolling Stone to expand the U.S. magazine's business in new markets.
ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images

Rolling Stone Magazine is selling a 49 percent stake to BandLab, a music startup in Singapore.

That comes as print ad sales are down for the magazine, and it continues pushing its digital presence. The magazine, which built its reputation decades ago on its counterculture appeal and gonzo reporting style, has maintained some heavy-hitting reporting and a focus on the music industry even as it’s become significantly more mainstream.

But the company is also growing in other directions; more of its readers are online than in print at this point, and like most “legacy” print companies, it’s looking to diversify its business model.

The deal reportedly came partly out of a personal connection. Gus Wenner, the 26-year-old in charge of the digital side of Rolling Stone and son of co-founder Jann Wenner, met BandLab’s CEO Kuok Meng Ru, who is 28 years old and the son of a palm oil tycoon in Singapore. BandLab owns a group of companies focused on musicians and fans, including a music-sharing service oriented towards music producers, and it has been acquiring new investments quickly.

The move appears to be an effort to expand into Asia, and also into different types of interactions with audiences, although the exact outcomes remain to be seen.

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