Mergers & Acquisitions Watch: Time Inc.'s Sale Of Golf Magazine; Comcast Eyes Fox Sports Assets

A whole bunch of lawyers are going to have busy Thanksgiving weeks as a mergers and acquisitions possibly come to a head. Two in particular could have profound impacts on the golf industry.

Most notably, Golf Magazine's possible sale is thought to be coming to a conclusion, with bids due from prospective buyers last Friday. My sources say therea are at least two interested and legitimate parties remaining in wanting to acquire the publication and URL currently part of Time, Inc.

However, that impending sale could be complicated by the Koch Brothers' backing Meredith Corporation's latest effort to purchase Time, Inc.

From Sydney Ember and Kenneth Vogel's New York Times story:

According to people involved in the talks, Meredith has also lined up $3 billion in financing from four banks: Citibank, Barclays, Credit Suisse and Royal Bank of Canada. Meredith has been busy lately reviewing Time Inc.’s financials, which have become somewhat complicated, because the company had been in the process of selling several magazines including Sunset and Golf and a stake in Essence.

Meredith has indicated that it would acquire all of Time Inc.’s properties, but was still seeking clarification about the status of those sales, these people said.

However, Vanity Fair's Joe Pompeo suggested the sales are going forward separately.

It’s also not clear if Time Inc.’s weekly news titles would reside with Meredith long term should the Koch-backed deal go through. Part of the reason the 2013 sale fell apart was because Meredith didn’t want Time, Fortune, and Sports Illustrated. The current negotiations are believed to be for the entire portfolio, minus several divestitures that are already in the works (Sunset, Golf, Time Inc. U.K.), which has led to speculation that Meredith might decide to unload the newsweeklies after acquiring them. (Perhaps to the Kochs as a play thing?, some of my sources wondered.)

How Golf and Sports Illustrated co-exist going forward is of the most interest to golfers, as is having a major source for news with several important writers on the mastheads.

A longer shot to watch for M&A fans: Comcast's possible purchase of select Fox assets. As longtime LA Times business writer Meg James notes in explaining what Golf Channel owner Comcast would want from Fox, film studios and sports networks appear to be the focus.

Universal is ranked third with 16% of the domestic box office market this year, and 20th Century Fox fourth with 12.6%, behind Warner Bros. and Disney, according to Box Office Mojo. Sony Pictures (including its Columbia Pictures brand) ranks fifth with 9% of the market.

Comcast has its eye on even more assets than Disney because it is interested in the sports channels. (Disney owns ESPN and probably planned to stay clear of the sports channels to avoid antitrust concerns).

The obvious impact for golf on the chance that Fox sells some or all of its sports broadcasting empire: Fox holds the rights to USGA coverage through 2026.