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Wired Magazine Is Sold to N.Y. Publishing Firm

Media: Computer-age magazine is bought by owner of New Yorker and GQ. The $80-million deal doesn't include book publishing and online ventures.


SAN FRANCISCO — Wired magazine, the splashy but financially struggling chronicler of the computer age, has been acquired by the publisher of the New Yorker, GQ and Vanity Fair in a deal reportedly worth about $80 million.

The sale caps a lengthy search by Wired's publishers for a buyer and comes just a few months after the monthly magazine--known as much for its eye-watering graphics as for its technology-worshiping editorial bent--celebrated its fifth anniversary.

Wired's new owner is Advance Magazine Publications Inc., a New York company that said it doesn't plan any changes for the magazine and will keep its headquarters in San Francisco. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

"We have long admired Wired for its innovative approach to publishing and its strong editorial voice," said Si Newhouse, chairman of Advance Magazine's parent company, which also owns Conde Nast. "We look forward to working with existing management to grow the magazine further."

Employees at the magazine said they are apprehensive about the ownership change but have been assured that their jobs are secure and that Wired will lose none of its editorial flair.

"Obviously there's some uncertainty," said one employee who asked not to be identified. "But every indication so far has been encouraging and upbeat."

One of the ironies of the deal is that Wired, the self-proclaimed voice of the digital revolution, is now the property of a tradition-bound publishing company that has all but ignored the Internet.

The deal does not involve other holdings of Wired Ventures Inc., including its book publishing unit and an online business that has grown but continues to lose money.

The sale was announced to Wired's staff Wednesday evening by Louis Rossetto and Jane Metcalfe, the husband-and-wife team who founded the magazine as part of their aim to build "a new kind of global, diversified media company for the 21st century."

Rossetto in recent years has focused on developing the company's online businesses and said that is where the proceeds of the sale will be used.

The sale "solidifies our financial position, provides ample funding for our online properties, and positions the company for many possible opportunities," he said.

Wired Digital, which is composed of the HotBot search engine and three Web sites, accounted for 30% of the company's revenue last year but isn't expected to turn a profit until the fourth quarter of 1998 at the earliest. The division had to lay off about 40 people several months ago.

The magazine has been profitable since early 1997. Wired has more than 400,000 subscribers, a stable of coveted advertisers and is one of the most influential magazines of the 1990s.

Still, Wired was launched amid such hype that it might have been impossible for it to live up to the soaring ambitions of its founders.

Rossetto and Metcalfe twice tried to cash in on their creation by selling stock to the public, and both times were spurned by an investment community that didn't think Wired Ventures was worth the $450 million its founders at one point deemed reasonable.

Since those failed offerings, Wired Ventures has had to scramble for private financing while trimming costs and curtailing its appetite for confusing layouts, trendy jargon and fluorescent-colored pages.

In recent months, Wired was widely known to be seeking a buyer and was reportedly close to a deal with Miller Publishing Group of Los Angeles before accepting the offer from Advance, which has been an investor in Wired since 1994.

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