New York Times to buy sports site The Athletic for $550m

Subscriber-funded website was in acquisition talks with several news publications

The New York Times building in Manhattan, New York, US. Reuters

The New York Times has agreed to buy subscription sports website The Athletic, which has more than one million subscribers, a person familiar with the matter said.

The deal is valued at about $550 million, the person, who asked not to be identified because it has not yet been officially announced, told Bloomberg on Thursday.

Founded six years ago, The Athletic established itself by poaching big-name sports writers from news outlets across the country, including Ken Rosenthal in baseball and Shams Charania in basketball.

The Athletic’s co-founder, Alex Mather, told The New York Times in 2017: “We will wait every local paper out and let them continuously bleed until we are the last ones standing. We will suck them dry of their best talent at every moment.”

He later apologised for his remarks.

The company raised about $50m two years ago and had a valuation of roughly $500m. In November, it had about 1.2 million subscribers who pay for access to articles about major professional sport teams in the US as well as professional football teams abroad.

The Athletic brought in $47m in revenue in 2020 but was forced to cut staff and pay early in the pandemic when most live sporting events were suspended, The Information, a technology website that first broke the story, reported.

In June 2020, The Athletic cut 46 employees, or 8 per cent of its staff.

The website also held talks with news site Axios, but negotiations broke down over a range of issues, including price and who would lead the combined company, people familiar with the matter said.

Updated: January 6th 2022, 6:06 PM