After a half-century as an independent entity — and years in which it enjoyed kingmaker status among hopeful rock ‘n’ roll stars — Rolling Stone is now heading for new ownership.
The New York Times reports that publisher Jann Wenner, who co-founded the magazine in 1967, has agreed to pursue a sale that will leave Rolling Stone out of his hands for the first time in its history — and although Wenner and his son Gus, who’s taken on a leadership role at Wenner Media in recent years, have both expressed a desire to stay on after they strike a deal, they’ve conceded the possibility that the new owners may opt to move on without their involvement.
Paraphrasing Bob Dylan, the elder Wenner told the Times that “if you’re not busy being born, then you’re busy dying,” conceding that as a 71-year-old at the helm of what was once a pointedly counterculture publication, he believes “it’s time for young people to run it.” Both Wenners also admitted that given the current state of the publishing industry, their company’s position isn’t where it needs to be in order to “grow the brand” the way they’d like.
The Times‘ report outlines the ways in which Rolling Stone‘s influence has waned and reputation suffered over the years, as well as touching on some Wenner business deals that have undermined the company’s publishing presence while eroding its ownership stake in RS. It isn’t hard to understand why Wenner might decide to seek out a new owner with “lots of money” to breathe new life into the magazine — but it’s also easy to see why the prospect of a sale is cause for sadness among those who remember its glory days.
“That sense of the magazine editor’s hands on the magazine — that’s what’s going to get lost here,” predicted veteran Rolling Stone critic and editor Anthony DeCurtis. “I don’t know who’s going to be able to step in and do that anymore.”