Hearst, the New York City publisher of Cosmopolitan, Esquire, and other glossy and online magazines, says it has agreed to buy popular-health publisher Rodale Inc., of Emmaus, Pa.
Family-owned, 87-year-old Rodale employs around 450 in Lehigh County and also has offices in New York. It claims credit for popularizing the organic-food and fitness marketing movements.
The company put itself up for sale in June at a time when publishers have struggled to keep viewers, ads, and sales. Hearst was seen in the industry as the most likely buyer, Ad Age wrote last month.
Hearst boss Steven R. Swartz and Rodale chief Maria Rodale won’t say what Hearst is paying, but the Wall St. Journal reported the price approaches $225 million, citing an unnamed source. That’s about what Rodale grosses in a year, a sign that sales weren’t expected to grow without new investment from a buyer such as Hearst. The companies hope to close the deal early next year.
Rodale publishes 93 titles, including Bicycling, Prevention, Runner’s World, Men’s Health and Women’s Health. Its book-publishing arm has produced Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth and Dave Asprey’s Bulletproof Diet. Rodale videos include The South Beach Diet and Thug Kitchen.
Rodale’s founder, the late Jerome Irving Rodale, a New York native, was skeptical of modern food processing and anticipated late-1900s popular ideas about natural foods, but also evangelized cranky ideas, such as trying to use diet, rather than vaccination, to prevent polio. The elder Rodale died of a heart attack on the Dick Cavett TV interview show in 1971, aged 72, moments after joking he’d live past 100.
Rodale is “a peerless authority” for its subscribers, David Carey, head of Hearst’s magazine division, said in a statement. The companies have joint ventures in England, the Netherlands, and Japan. Maria Rodale added that Hearst can help Rodale reach readers “across an ever-diversifying choice of platforms.”
Rodale publications compete with Hearst titles such as Food Network Magazine and Dr. Oz The Good Life. Oz, like the elder Rodale, has been accused of promoting unscientific claims.
Besides Hearst’s magazines, which also include Car & Driver, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, and Popular Mechanics, Hearst also owns the Houston Chronicle and daily newspapers in San Francisco and other cities. The company is an investor in the A&E, ESPN and History television networks, the Fitch credit ratings service, television stations, and digital services including BuzzFeed and Vice.
(This story was updated to add information about founder J.I. Rodale.)