Axios Reportedly In Talks To Merge With Sports Media Outlet, Could Go Public

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Michael Ginsberg Congressional Reporter
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Digital media companies Axios and The Athletic could merge and go public, people familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

Axios, founded by three former Politico reporters in 2017, and The Athletic, founded in 2015 by two tech developers, could focus on selling premium corporate subscriptions, WSJ reported. Axios primarily makes money through advertising, while The Athletic is entirely subscription-based.

The Athletic was valued at $475 million in January 2020, WSJreported, while Axios was valued at about $200 million in September 2020. The merger would be entirely corporate, with both sites maintaining their own newsrooms and editors, an individual familiar with the plan told WSJ.

The Athletic broke the story of the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal, in which the team used electronic buzzers and banged on trash cans during its 2017 World Series win. Major League Baseball suspended multiple executives for their roles in the scandal, and the team paid a $5 million fine and lost draft picks. (RELATED: Carlos Beltran Out As Mets Manager Over Role In Sign-Stealing Scandal)

Axios’ HBO news program scored multiple interviews with then-President Donald Trump, leading to increased ratings for the program. Co-founder and chief executive Jim VandeHei downplayed the expected impact of the “Trump Bump” in a 2020 interview, even as many news outlets have lost viewers during the Biden presidency.

If they merge and go public, Axios and The Athletic could operate under a holding company called a special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC), according to WSJ. SPACs have “no commercial operations” and are “formed strictly to raise capital through an initial public offering for the purpose of acquiring an existing company,” according to Investopedia.