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Time Inc. Said Close to Deal to Acquire American Express Titles

Joseph Ripp is likely to broach the subject Wednesday when he faces his first all-hands-on-deck meeting as ceo.

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BUYING MODE?: New Time Inc. chief executive officer Joseph Ripp has had a busy few days since he formally assumed his role last week. A few new initiatives have since trickled out, but the most ambitious is expected to come this week when Time purchases American Express Publishing’s five magazines, including Departures and Food & Wine.

Though as of Monday afternoon a formal agreement had not been signed, Ripp is likely to broach the subject Wednesday when he faces his first all-hands-on-deck meeting as ceo.

Conversations to buy Amex’s magazines preceded Ripp’s appointment and have been ongoing for about six months, according to sources. But American Express is a company Ripp knows well. In 1993, when he was senior vice president, chief financial officer and treasurer, Time signed an agreement with Amex Publishing to handle its business operations. Additionally, before he was named ceo, Ripp sat on the board of Amex’s publishing arm. The New York Post first reported the news Monday afternoon, estimating the price tag of the purchase at less than $100 million.

The portfolio would be a small addition in comparison with the 21 U.S. magazines Time Inc., the country’s largest publisher, already owns.

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The combined advertising haul of Departures, Executive Travel, Food & Wine and Travel & Leisure in 2012 was 3,023 pages, a 7 percent decline from the year before, when they carried 3,257, according to Media Industry Newsletter. Food & Wine, with a little more than 1,000 pages last year, led the pack.

Food & Wine ended the first half with a circulation of 944,000, while Travel & Leisure had 972,000, according to the Alliance for Audited Media. InStyle, on the other hand, one of the few Time Inc. titles that consistently carries luxury advertising, had 2,648 pages last year, according to MIN, and a circulation of about 1.8 million. If the deal goes through, Departures, which is published seven times a year and is mailed to Platinum and Centurion cardholders, and Black Ink, a biannual that goes to just those with Centurion cards, will continue to be available only to cardholders, so at the very least they’ll continue to enjoy the luxury of ignoring the pressures of the newsstand. AAM does not track Departures or Black Ink.

In the last week, Time Inc. has also introduced a new ad product called Engage that allows advertisers to capitalize on the publisher’s subscriber data and a tiered subscription plan for People magazine. The plan includes just-digital subscriptions, as well as a “VIP” package that offers readers perks, like “three editorially curated gift boxes per year tied to People franchises.” Time Warner recently pushed the announced spin-off of the publishing division to early next year from this fall to allow Ripp more space to settle on a coherent corporate strategy for the new publicly traded company.

American Express and Time Inc. declined comment Monday.