Jim VandeHei, co-founder and CEO of Axios, speaks at the Milken Institute 2022 Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, May 3, 2022.
Mike Blake | Reuters
Axios is being acquired by Cox Enterprises, the companies announced Monday, with plans to expand the digital news site’s coverage to include more cities.
The deal values Axios at $525 million, according to people familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity because financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Axios co-founders Jim VandeHei, Mike Allen and Roy Schwartz will remain on the company’s board and continue to manage its day-to-day operations, the companies said in a statement. Alex Taylor, CEO and Chairman of Cox Enterprises, will join Axios’ board.
Cox, which is privately held and based in Atlanta, previously invested in Axios in the fall of 2021. The company stepped up talks to buy Axios several months ago, intrigued by the company’s push into local journalism, VandeHei said in an interview. Axios, which focuses heavily on political and business news, launched in 2017 and offers local coverage of cities including Austin, Texas, Boston and Seattle, according to its website.
“We were looking for two things: a buyer who was authentically committed for the very long term with serious media, and someone who was comfortable with us controlling it for a long time,” VandeHei said. “This is not because we are arrogant, but because we have a clear sense of what a good journalistic business looks like.”
Axios has never hired a banker and has only talked to Cox about a sale, rather than courting other buyers, said VandeHei, who described the deal as “nice and easy,” with talks escalating over the past few months. Axios has previously been in talks to sell Axel Springer and merge with The Athletic, which The New York Times bought earlier this year.
This is the second time VandeHei has founded a media company that has sold for more than $500 million. He co-founded Politico, which he sold for $1 billion to Axel Springer last year after he left Axios. Allen was Politico’s first employee, and Schwartz was Politico’s former chief revenue officer.
Cox owns cable and automotive businesses. It also owns The Atlanta Journal Constitution, Dayton Daily News and other Ohio newspapers, which the company said will continue to operate independently. It sold control of most of its media assets in 2019 to private equity firm Apollo Global Management.
Axios HQ, the company’s software arm, will become a separate entity led by Schwartz, president of Axios.
“We are excited about entering this new chapter with Cox and the opportunities we can explore with Axios HQ as a separate business,” said Schwartz.
Disclosure: CNBC parent NBCUniversal invests in Axios.
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