HomeFree ArticleLatest NewsSports Illustrated’s future uncertain amid mass staff layoffs

Sports Illustrated’s future uncertain amid mass staff layoffs

Sports Illustrated’s future uncertain amid mass staff layoffs

Employees Sports Illustrated received notifications of significant layoffs on Friday – some immediate and others within a short timeframe, raising the possibility of the entire staff being phased out in the next three months and the iconic publication could fold altogether.

Authentic Brands Group, the licensing entity that acquired Sports Illustrated for $110 million from Meredith five years ago, has terminated its agreement with The Arena Group for publishing SI in both print and digital formats. This decision follows Arena’s failure to make a $3.75 million payment, breaching the SI licensing deal established in 2019. The termination triggered a $45 million fee due immediately to Authentic, as reported in an SEC filing on Friday.

Arena informed Sports Illustrated employees via email that the license for operating the brand had been officially revoked by Authentic Brands Group. As a result, staff layoffs related to the SI brand are imminent. According to the publication’s union sources, guild members will be given a 90-day notice, during which there is a chance that the licensing issue could be resolved. Non-guild employees, on the other hand, will face immediate layoffs. The depth of the layoffs remained unclear until a staff call clarified that anyone remaining after 90 days would be laid off unless the licensing issue was resolved.

“Some employees will be terminated immediately and paid in lieu of the applicable notice period under the union contract,” stated Arena’s email to employees. The email further outlined that employees with a last working day of that day would be contacted soon, while others would be expected to work through the notice period.

The Sports Illustrated Guild expressed its commitment to fighting for fair treatment of workers in a statement on X (formerly Twitter), which read: ‘We have fought together as a union to maintain the standard of this storied publication that we love, and to make sure our workers are treated fairly for the value they bring to this company. It is a fight we will continue.’

The termination of Arena’s license and the subsequent elimination of Sports Illustrated‘s staff marks a significant shift for the company. Authentic Brands Group has been exploring options with various parties to potentially take over Arena’s role with SI. The company aims to expedite the process, whether by establishing a new operator or allowing Arena to renegotiate its current deal.

Releasing its first issue in 1954, Sports Illustrated developed into one of the most respected publications in sports, as well as producing high-profile annual editions such as its swimsuit issue, which was first published in 1964.

Despite SI’s historical legacy, it has struggled financially in the digital age. Recent challenges, including a November report of AI-generated reviews without disclosure and a December town hall led by new leader Manoj Bhargava, have added to the publication’s woes.

Authentic Brands Group’s decision to terminate Arena’s license signals a change in direction, and the company is committed to ensuring the continued integrity of the Sports Illustrated brand. The future of SI remains uncertain, but Authentic Brands Group is determined to navigate the publication through this necessary evolution.

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