Amazon, Conde Nast and DraftKings "showed interest" in acquiring The Athletic before it was bought by the N.Y. Times, and private-equity firm TPG was the Times’ "biggest rival in The Athletic sweepstakes," according to sources cited by Alex Sherman of CNBC.com. Sources said that before its sale, The Athletic looked into "raising more capital, but the cost of financing and further dilution to the founders and other investors" pushed co-Founder & CEO Alex Mather and co-Founder & President Adam Hansmann in the "direction of selling." Still, sources said that several investors and advisors close to the company "privately urged Mather and Hansmann not to sell." Sources said that Mather and Hansmann "did have other plans," as in The Athletic’s early days, they "looked into merging with Nate Silver’s 538.com to combine sports and politics, and toyed with the idea of partnering or merging with America’s Test Kitchen, bringing together food and sports under one roof." Now The Athletic wants to "expand into podcasts and digital video and push the envelope in digital forms" (CNBC.com, 1/14).
NEW COMPETITION: MEDIUM's Aron Pilhofer wrote by purchasing The Athletic, which covers 270-plus sports teams in more than 47 local markets, the Times has "placed itself in direct competition with every local news site for the same pool of subscribers." And since the "average number of news sites people will pay for is one," that is "very bad news indeed for local legacy news organizations." The Times has a "major challenge on its hands to make The Athletic work financially," and it needs "more subscribers." The Athletic has about 1.2 million active subs, which means it has "grown by about 20,000 per month" since '19. Pilhofer: "That’s not nothing, to be sure. But is it the kind of growth The Times likely has in mind after dishing out a half-billion dollars for the property? I kind of doubt it" (MEDIUM.com, 1/7).