“This is a company that could be worth a hell lot more”: How Axios Will Shake After $525 Million Sale to Cox

In 1898, at the end of America’s Gilded Age, a 28-year-old Ohio businessman named James M. Cox bought Dayton Evening News for $26,000 (about $928,000 in modern tender), sowing the seeds of a $20 billion company now known as Cox Enterprises. On Monday, Cox—mainly in the telecommunications and automotive services business these days—announced A deal that dates back to its very first foray into media 124 years ago: the acquisition of Axios, for one. informed of $525 million. This time around, the prize is not a leading local newspaper, but an influential news website that is expanding into local digital journalism, effectively bringing Cox back to its roots.

“If you roll back the clock a decade or so ago, they were almost exclusively a media company,” Axios CEO Jim Vandehei Told me when I spoke to him on the phone shortly after the news came. “They had some of the biggest newspapers and television stations in the country, and they made a wise decision to exit the local media as soon as it was about to collapse. They really wanted to get back into the media, and especially the local media. but they also wanted to make sure it was a large, scalable business. (Cox still owns Atlanta Journal-Constitution, dayton daily news, and other Ohio newspapers.)

Enter Axios, which puts itself on the map with bullet-list-y The scoop, consumed by power players in the media and politics, but is now expanding into local news—24 cities so far and many more planned to come. axios itself reports That Cox deal includes “an additional $25 million of new investment … to help the company expand its local, national and subscription news products.” As Vandehei said, “I think they see what we see — that there’s a nearly limitless market for us to address if we do it smartly, and it’s a company that’s a lot better than them.” Might be worth the hell more. Paying for it.”

Axios was launched in 2017 by Vandehei, mike allen, And Roy Schwartz After leaving Politico – which Vandehei also co-founded – in between it’s falling out with the then owner Robert Allbrighton. Venture-backed Axios has flirted with acquisitions at least once before. German media conglomerate Axel Springer was kicking the tires last year. but as i reported at that timeAxios kicked out after knowing Axel Springer boss Mathias Dopner Together was pursuing Politico, which was bought by Axel Springer. (Dopfner has denied any bargaining.) The Axios people walked away from the negotiations and were more adamant that, under any potential owner, they wanted to have a high degree of control over their business. According to Cox’s announcement, they found an owner in Cox under whom the trio would retain their authority over day-to-day editorial and business management, while keeping a “substantial” stake in the company. In return, the Axios board will receive a new addition to the chairman and CEO of Cox Enterprises. alex taylor, who said in a Statement“Bringing a forward-thinking organization like Axios to Cox Enterprises is exciting to us on many levels, and we look forward to helping them grow and grow.”

Vandehei told me that sales discussions under Cox’s leadership of Axios didn’t start for very long. Series D funding round Last fall, the past few months have been heating up. “They were far and away the easiest, kindest investor imaginable,” he said. “We spent time after we headed to Series D to get to know them, and, to be honest, doing our own diligence, figuring out, are these people real? And they were.” A source blebbed To new York Times That Cox is buying Axios for nearly five times its projected 2022 revenue of more than $100 million. Why should we believe Axios is worth $525 million? “Because that’s what Cox paid for it,” Vandehei replied. “Listen, you’re trying to look at a company’s revenue — what do you have that’s really unique and really scalable? So from Cox’s perspective, they have some neat things to work on. This national platform has met with a niche audience. We’re launching our high-end subscription business, Axios Pro, so there’s endless room to grow in the high-end subscription space. We’re in over 20 cities today, and There are many more cities in the United States.”

Vandehei is an entrepreneurial figure who has founded two of the most influential news start-ups in the digital age. I wondered if he could once again heed the start-up siren call. “I will not start or run any other media company,” he insisted. (Mark those words!) “This is the work of my life, and the work of many, many, many years at Axios.”

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