Emerson Collective Acquires Majority Stake in The Atlantic

By Gillian B. White

David G. Bradley, the chairman and owner of Atlantic Media, is announcing this morning that he is selling a majority stake in The Atlantic to Emerson Collective, an organization led by philanthropist and investor Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple founder Steve Jobs. Bradley will retain a minority stake in The Atlantic and will continue as chairman and operating partner for at least three to five years. In a letter to his staff, Bradley wrote that Emerson Collective will most likely assume full ownership of The Atlantic within five years.

Bradley, who bought The Atlantic in 1999 for $10 million from Mortimer Zuckerman, is credited with transforming the Boston-based monthly magazine of politics, arts, and letters into a profitable digital-journalism and live-events company of global reach, even while continuing to publish The Atlantic‘s award-winning print magazine, which was born four years before the Civil War. “Against the odds, The Atlantic is prospering,” Bradley wrote in his memo. “While I will stay at the helm some years, the most consequential decision of my career now is behind me: Who next will take stewardship of this 160-year-old national treasure? To me, the answer, in the form of Laurene, feels incomparably right.”

Bradley, who is 64, wrote that he and his wife, Katherine, recently realized that their three sons were not interested in media ownership, and so they would have to look “farther afield” for a next generation of Atlantic leadership. Bradley reported to his staff that he and his advisers had compiled a list of 600 potential investors, but ended up approaching only Powell Jobs as potential partner. The parties did not disclose the final sale price or valuation of Atlantic Media.

Powell Jobs, who is 53, founded Emerson Collective in 2004. The organization, based in Palo Alto, California, invests in both nonprofit and entrepreneurial efforts to bring about immigration and education reform, and is focused on a host of other issues as well. Emerson Collective also has significant investments in media, from movie-production companies such as Anonymous Content to start-ups such as The California Sunday Magazine. The organization has also provided support to several nonprofit journalism sites including the Marshall Project and ProPublica.

In a statement, Powell Jobs noted that Ralph Waldo Emerson, a co-founder of The Atlantic, inspired the name and the mission of her organization. She praised The Atlantic for the breadth and scope of its purpose: to “bring about equality for all people; to illuminate and defend the American idea; to celebrate American culture and literature; and to cover our marvelous, and sometimes messy, democratic experiment.”

Powell Jobs is not the first person associated with the technology industry to enter the legacy journalism market in Washington, D.C., where The Atlantic is now based. In 2012, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes bought a controlling stake in the New Republic, an investment that held great initial promise but soon soured. More auspiciously, the Amazon founder Jeff Bezos bought the ailing Washington Post in 2013 and quickly invested, with significant success, in its journalism and …read more

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