Sports Illustrated plans to layoff most – if not all – of its staff

Sports Illustrated’s employee union said in a statement that the layoffs would be a significant number and possibly all, of the NewsGuild workers represented.

WASHINGTON — The publisher of Sports Illustrated has notified employees it is planning to lay off a significant portion — possibly all — of the outlet’s staff after its license to use the iconic brand’s name in print and digital was revoked.

In an email to employees Friday morning, the Arena Group, which operates Sports Illustrated and related properties, said that Authentic Brands Group has revoked its marketing license.

“As a result of this license revocation, we will be laying off staff that work on the SI brand,” the email said.

Sports Illustrated’s employee union said in a statement that the layoffs would be a significant number and possibly all, of the NewsGuild workers represented.

“We have fought together as a union to maintain the standard of this storied publication that we love, and to make sure our workers are treated fairly for the value they bring to this company. It is a fight we will continue,” Mitch Goldich, NFL editor and unit chair, said in a statement.

The guild’s statement also called for Authentic Brands Group to “ensure the continued publication of SI and allow it to serve our audience in the way it has for nearly 70 years.”

In a statement on Friday, the Arena Group said it was negotiating with Authentic about the license, “with plans to sustain our commitment to delivering quality content throughout the ongoing discussions.”

Arena admitted that it had failed to make a quarterly payment of $3.75 million and Authentic had put it on notice that it intended to end the licensing agreement. As a result, Arena announced Thursday it would make a “significant reduction” in its workforce of more than 100 people. A representative for Authentic did not immediately return a message for comment.

The Arena Group acquired publishing rights from ABG in 2019 for at least 10 years. The group’s stewardship of SI has had many hurdles since then. In December, it fired chief executive officer Ross Levinsohn when the magazine’s alleged use of AI-generated stories drew public backlash.

The iconic sports brand has had a rough six years. It was acquired by Meredith Publishing in 2018 as part of the purchase of Time Inc., which started the magazine in 1954.

Less than a year later, Meredith sold the magazine’s intellectual property to Authentic Brands Group for $110 million. ABG owns the intellectual property of many brands and stars, including Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Muhammad Ali and Reebok.

Once a weekly publication, SI was reduced to biweekly publishing in 2018 and became a monthly in 2020.

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