After nearly 50 years, Jann Wenner has finally decided to allow outside investors for Rolling Stone, the magazine he founded back in 1967 and has been publishing ever since. Well, he’s allowing one investor to be precise. But that investor will be buying almost half of the company. The parent company of BandLab—a social network for musicians founded by Kuok Meng Ru, son of Singapore-based billionaire Kuok Khoon Hong—will be purchasing 49 percent of Rolling Stone, just short of a controlling share, after negotiations that have apparently been going on for more than a year. BandLab will not have any editorial control of the music magazine. Instead, it will handle a new Rolling Stone International subsidiary.
“Our strategic partnership is focused on brand extensions into new areas we haven’t quite fully been in the past, such as merchandising, live events, hospitality—they are areas we have dabbled in but never really seriously gone after,” Gus Wenner, who will be assuming control of the magazine from his father next year, tells Bloomberg. “Meng and his team bring a great deal of understanding, infrastructure, know-how and act in that extraordinarily exciting market of Asia and beyond.”
Kuok has stated that he understands the cultural commitment he’s taking on with this purchase. “What has happened last 49 years has already shown that Rolling Stone is more than a brand to people,” Kuok told Bloomberg. “It is now our shared responsibility to take it into the future.”
Rolling Stone has managed to remain afloat in what are otherwise harsh times for print journalism. The magazine, which underwent a makeover in 2008, recently saw growth in its online audience—the number of unique monthly visitors rose by 40 percent from the previous year in the first half of 2016. The publication is also rebounding from the media shitstorm over an investigative article about a sexual assault on the University of Virginia’s campus. Editors admitted the article was based almost entirely on the alleged victim’s account. The methodology was questioned by readers and other journalists, including those at The Washington Post. The music mag eventually retracted the article, which Bloomberg notes is now the subject of multiple lawsuits; Kuok would not comment on whether his company would be liable for any damages sought.