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July 31, 2018updated 01 Aug 2018 9:35am

Private equity firm buys Dennis Publishing with sale proceeds going to woodland charity set up by Felix Dennis

By Freddy Mayhew

The private equity firm that created Immediate Media and Gorkana Group has bought out Dennis Publishing, owner of news magazine The Week.

Exponent has agreed to buy the international media group for an undisclosed sum, the two companies announced today.

Proceeds from the sale will go to the Heart of England Forest charity, established by Dennis Publishing founder Felix Dennis during his lifetime – he died of cancer aged 67 in 2014.

Dennis owns more than 30 brands – covering motoring, lifestyle and technology – and claims to sell more than 2.5m magazines every month, reaching more than 50m readers.

Its magazine portfolio includes Money Week, The Week Junior, Auto Express, PC Pro, Men’s Fitness, Coach, Cyclist, Viz Comic and “strange phenomena” magazine the Fourtean Times.

James Tye, group chief executive of Dennis, described the deal as an “exciting partnership”.

He said: “I’m confident that Exponent’s experience in our vibrant industry coupled with Dennis’ talented and experienced team, allied with our world class brands, will prove to be a formidable and unbeatable force in the publishing sector.

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“As partners, we share the belief that innovation and ambition are the keys to success and it’s this shared vision that will propel Dennis to its next phase of growth.”

This isn’t Exponent’s first foray into the media market – in 2016 it acquired the Racing Post and in 2011 it formed Immediate Media by merging publishers BBC Magazines, Origin Publishing and Magicalia.

The business, which publishes the Radio Times, was then acquired by Hubert Burda Media for an undisclosed sum in January 2017.

Exponent also created media intelligence company Gorkana Group in 2010 after merging firms Durrants, Metrica and Gorkana. The group was bought by Cision in October 2014.

Commenting on the buyout, David McGovern of Exponent, said: “Dennis is a unique, innovative and dynamic publishing and e-commerce business.

“We believe that there is a significant opportunity to grow both its print and digital platforms, which will allow it to reach and engage even more readers and customers.

“Exponent is delighted to back James Tye and his team. We look forward to combining their expert knowledge with our own deep experience in consumer media and e-commerce to help further develop Dennis’ strong market positions and build on Felix Dennis’ legacy.”

Dick Pountain, on behalf of the executors of the Felix Dennis estate, said: “We see Exponent as excellent partners for Dennis – their track record in media is extremely strong and we have confidence in their ability to continue to grow the size and reputation of the company that Felix created almost 50 years ago.

“The proceeds of this sale go to the Heart of England Forest (HoEF), a charity which Felix established during his lifetime. This endowment will enable the charity to create Felix’s ambitious vision – planting and maintaining the largest contiguous, broadleaf woodland for public enjoyment that the UK has seen in a century.

“The sale ensures not just a bright future for all involved but will create a lasting and important legacy for future generations.”

Time Inc UK, which publishes Marie Claire and Woman’s Weekly, was sold for an undisclosed sum to London-based private equity group Epiris Fund II in February this year. It was later rebranded as TI Media.

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