Elevating Forbes’ Game

As some of the more venerable, traditional-media names seek to revive their business, many have begun embracing private equity as an agent of change.

Earlier this month, Forbes called on Roger McNamee’s Elevation Partners to serve as its change agent, selling the firm an undisclosed stake in Forbes Media, LLC, a new company formed to house Forbes magazine, Forbes.com and other related media properties.

Elevation Managing Director Kevin Albert, who spoke to Buyouts shortly after the sale, said, “We were built to do this sort of deal,” referring to Elevation’s cross-breeding of technology and media. He added that while Forbes magazine remains a valued asset, it’s the potential of the publisher’s online business that piqued Elevation’s interest.

Forbes magazine was originally conceived by B.C. Forbes, a Scottish immigrant who launched the business publication in 1917. It has managed to stay in family hands since then, with Bruce Forbes, his brother Malcom, and currently Steve, Malcom’s son, each taking the helm as the head of the company.

Under Steve Forbes’ tenure, the publication has grown beyond its print origins. Forbes.com, a separate online entity under the Forbes umbrella, is widely considered among the best business sites on the Web. That said, there’s still plenty of room for growth, which is where Elevation will come in.

Steve Forbes, in an interview with Forbes.com, was quoted as saying, “The world has opened up in a way that I’ve never seen in my lifetime. The partnership with Elevation gives us a chance to move [faster] than we would have been able to do otherwise, both in the United States and overseas.”

While Albert was reticent to disclose what Elevation has in mind for Forbes, he insisted that technology would be an important component.

“The traditional media model has been disrupted by the Web. Even the Web has gone through disruptions,” Albert said.

He added, “Forbes has successfully completed round one. They didn’t shy away from the Web after the bubble burst, and they’ve been able to develop a lifestyle play on the side.”

Round two, according to Albert, is to expand on Forbes’ new media model. To do that, Forbes may move into what Albert calls “interpretive value-added devices,” and at the same time will work to “create [online] communities” for Forbes readers.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, although the New York Times reported that the transaction carried a price tag of between $200 million and $300 million. Other press reports, meanwhile, indicated that the deal ceded a 40% stake in Forbes Media to Elevation.

The link up between Elevation and Forbes should not be a total surprise to onlookers. Roger McNamee is regular on Forbes‘ Midas List, the magazine’s annual ranking of top dealmakers in the tech space. —K.M.