Rogers sells consumer magazines to St. Joseph Communications

Almost 25 years to the day after first entering the publishing industry, Rogers Media is exiting the business.

The company announced today that it has sold its seven remaining print and digital titles to Toronto-based St. Joseph Communications, which owns titles including Toronto Life, FASHION Magazine and Weddingbells. Terms of the deal, which will close next month, were not disclosed.

The deal gives privately held St. Joseph ownership of some of the country’s best-known—and iconic—consumer magazines, including Maclean’s, Chatelaine (English and French), Today’s Parent and HELLO! Canada.

St. Joseph also acquires the digital-only publications Flare and Canadian Business, as well as Rogers’ custom content division.

The deal concludes a protracted exit from the publishing industry for Rogers, which first entered the industry with the $3.1 billion acquisition of Maclean Hunter in March 1994 (that deal also included a majority interest in the Sun chain of newspapers, which Rogers sold two years later).

Rogers’ exit comes with the publishing industry beset by systemic revenue challenges. Advertising and subscriber revenue for consumer magazines have been steadily declining for a decade, and Rogers had been attempting to ameliorate its losses through a combination of staff cuts, divestiture, reduced frequency and converting titles to digital-only ventures.

In 2016, it sold off several business-to-business titles, including Canadian Grocer, The Medical Post and Marketing. In June 2018, it cut a reported 75 people from its digital content and publishing teams.

St. Joseph’s said in a release that is committed to “developing and growing” the brands. Current Rogers Media publishing employees will be offered employment at the company once the deal closes next month.

Wednesday’s announcement brought an end to a twisting saga for the sale of Rogers’ consumer titles. Late last year, the company was reportedly close to selling the publications to Roustan Media (which had purchased The Hockey News from Quebecor earlier in the year), only for the deal to fall apart at the final minute. According to reports, Rogers requested more time to examine the sale and other potential offers, causing Roustan to back away.

Rogers Media president Rick Brace said in a release that it was “vitally important” for Rogers to find a good home for the “storied brands,” one that would allow them to “live on and flourish” in a company dedicated to publishing.

“It was a difficult decision, but one we believe is right as we accelerate our strategic vision and reposition our media business for the future,” said Brace in a release. “We are extremely proud of these iconic magazine brands and all the employees who have delivered high-quality content for decades and helped shape Canadian culture and conversation.”

Tony Gagliano, executive chair and CEO of St. Joseph, said that the company’s experience with brands such as Toronto Life, as well as the business strategies applied to its properties, gives the company “confidence that we can help transform these brands so they may prosper in the quickly changing media landscape.”

—Photo: Sikander Iqbal, wikimedia


Chris Powell