Sports Illustrated

January 22, 2024

Sad news last week reported by A.J. Perez at Front Office Sports:

Staffers at Sports Illustrated were notified on Friday of massive layoffs—some immediately, others in short time, with potential for the entire staff to be gone in three months.

Authentic, the licensing group that purchased Sports Illustrated for $110 million from Meredith five years ago, has terminated the agreement it holds with The Arena Group to publish SI in print and digital, according to an email obtained by Front Office Sports. That move comes three weeks after Arena missed a $3.75 million payment that breached the company’s SI licensing deal, which began in 2019. (Authentic’s notice of termination, meanwhile, triggered a $45 million fee due immediately to Authentic, according to an SEC filing on Friday.)

The fallout: On Friday Arena told SI employees in an email “… We were notified by Authentic Brands Group (ABG) that the license under which the Arena Group operates the Sports Illustrated (SI) brand and SI related properties has been officially revoked by ABG. As a result of this license revocation, we will be laying off staff that work on the SI brand.”

I enjoyed Peter King’s callout in his column this week about SI:

Nothing describes how the sports media business has changed better than the precipitous decline of Sports Illustrated. More than a bit of melancholy washed over me Friday, processing the news of the battered place. Because even if SI survives 2024, it will do so as a skeleton of what it was.

I have only good memories of my 29 years with the franchise. In the midst of the sadness and bitterness over SI’s demise, I want to share a few of the reasons why I will always consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth because I got to work for the greatest sports journalism franchise for the guts of my career.

I remember the phone call—absolutely, totally out of the blue—from managing editor Mark Mulvoy in spring 1989. I was 31, covering the Giants for Newsday. Mulvoy asked if I was interested in interviewing for a job at the magazine. It’s still one of those things to this day that I can’t quite believe happened. I went into the mag’s Rockefeller Center offices, across from Radio City, and Mulvoy got to the point pretty fast. He wanted me to write the “Inside the NFL” column and, in fact, there wasn’t much of an interview. He asked me if I wanted the job.

He goes on to ask a bunch of people about their favorite covers and SI memories. Really cool.