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Sports Illustrated’s Publisher Guts Staff. Future Unclear

Jan 19, 2024

Staffers at Sports Illustrated were notified on Friday of massive layoffs—some immediately, others in short time.

Authentic, the licensing group that purchased Sports Illustrated for $110 million from Meredith five years ago, has terminated the agreement it holds with The Arena Group to publish SI in print and digital, according to an email obtained by Front Office Sports. That move comes three weeks after Arena missed a $3.75 million payment that breached the company’s SI licensing deal, which began in 2019. (Authentic’s notice of termination, meanwhile, triggered a $45 million fee due immediately to Authentic, according to an SEC filing on Friday.)

The fallout: On Friday Arena told SI employees in an email “… We were notified by Authentic Brands Group (ABG) that the license under which the Arena Group operates the Sports Illustrated (SI) brand and SI related properties has been officially revoked by ABG. As a result of this license revocation, we will be laying off staff that work on the SI brand.” According to SI union sources, severed guild members will be given 90 days’ notice (during which time there remains the chance that the licensing deal is resolved); and laid-off non-guild employees will be let go immediately. As of midday Friday, there remained massive confusion about the depth of the layoffs, but at a 2 p.m. staff call it was made clear: Anyone left in 90 days would be laid off, unless the licensing issue was resolved.

Source: Front Office Sports

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