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The Koch brothers are about to own a piece of Time Inc. Why?

They’re backing Meredith Corp., which has traditionally been uninterested in owning Time magazine. Let’s see if that changes ...

David Koch
David Koch at a Lincoln Center event in May 2017
Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for Lincoln Center
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Why do the Koch brothers want to own a piece of Time Inc.?

We still don’t know, but we’re getting closer to an answer: Meredith Corp., backed by a $600 million investment from billionaires Charles and David Koch, is finishing its deal to buy Time.

I’ve been told the deal should be finalized later today; the New York Times reported that the two companies’ boards are meeting this evening, and that Meredith will pay between $19 and $20 a share for the publisher behind Time, Fortune, People and Real Simple. Update: I’m told the deal will be for $18.50 a share.

Time Inc. insiders have been treating this one as a done deal for the last couple weeks; the Times first reported on the Meredith/Koch bid on November 15.

The main question remains: Why do the Kochs want to get into the publishing business?

Do they think it’s a good financial bet? Or do the brothers, a powerful force in conservative politics, like the idea of influencing one of the world’s largest publishers, even if it’s nothing like the powerhouse it used to be?

It’s possible that the Kochs, or Meredith, will share some insight when they formally announce the deal, tonight or tomorrow morning. I wouldn’t hold my breath, though.

One indicator that the Kochs may view this as a passive investment: A source familiar with the deal says the brothers and their representatives won’t have a seat on the Meredith board.

The more important sign to watch: See if Meredith, which publishes titles focused on women and the advertisers who want to reach them, ends up hanging on to the titles it has traditionally been uninterested in — particularly Time and Fortune.

If Meredith — the publisher behind Family Circle and Better Homes and Garden — now decides it is interested in the news business it wanted no part of for years, it doesn’t automatically mean the Kochs plan on having an active hand in the news business. But it would be an obvious answer.

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