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New York Times to buy the Athletic in $550 million deal

UPDATED: Thu., Jan. 6, 2022

A sign for The New York Times is displayed on May 6, 2021. The New York Times Co. is buying sports site The Athletic for $550 million.  (Associated Press )
A sign for The New York Times is displayed on May 6, 2021. The New York Times Co. is buying sports site The Athletic for $550 million. (Associated Press )
By Gerry Smith Bloomberg

The New York Times Co. agreed to buy the Athletic, acquiring a sports-news website with more than 1 million subscribers, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The deal is valued at around $550 million, said the person, who asked not to be identified because it hasn’t been announced. Neither the Times nor the Athletic responded to a request for comment.

Started 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 apologized.

The company raised about $50 million two years ago at a valuation of around $500 million.

In November, it had about 1.2 million subscribers who pay for access to articles about major professional sports teams in the U.S., as well as professional soccer teams abroad.

In June 2020, the Athletic cut 46 employees, or 8% of its staff.

The Athletic also held talks with the online news site Axios. Negotiations broke down over a range of issues, including price and who would lead the combined company, according to people familiar with the matter.

The deal with the Times was reported earlier Thursday by the Information.

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