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Axios agrees to sell to Cox for $525 million in cash

"This is great for Axios, for our shareholders and American journalism," Jim VandeHei, the media company's co-founder and CEO, said of the sale to Cox Enterprises.
Patrick T. Fallon
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"This is great for Axios, for our shareholders and American journalism," Jim VandeHei, the media company's co-founder and CEO, said of the sale to Cox Enterprises.

Less than six years after launching its news site, Axios has struck a purchase deal with Cox Enterprises worth some $525 million, the two companies announced on Monday.

The deal promises to meld two businesses that are distinctly different. Axios, the startup based in Arlington, Va., is famous for its condensed, bullet-pointed stories. Cox is a family-owned conglomerate headquartered in Atlanta that owns Autotrader, Kelley Blue Book and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, along with substantial enterprises in broadband and other areas.

Executives say local news will be their emphasis

The two companies' leaders say they're united by a shared goal: boosting local journalism, at a time when the internet has laid waste to news outlets across the U.S.

"We have found our kindred spirit for creating a great, trusted, consequential media company that can outlast us all," Axios CEO and co-founder Jim VandeHei said, in a statement posted by Cox. "Our shared ambitions should be clear: to spread clinical, nonpartisan, trusted journalism to as many cities and as many topics as fast as possible."

"Local watchdog journalism is so important to the health of any community, and no one is more focused on building that out nationally than Axios," Cox chairman and CEO Alex Taylor said, in a separate announcement posted by Axios.

The sale comes a year after a different takeover was rumored

Axios — the name is Greek for "worthy" — was founded by VandeHei, Mike Allen and Roy Schwartz after the trio left the Politico website. The website was the subject of takeover rumors in the spring of 2021, but its reported suitor, German media giant Axel Springer, bought Politico instead.

Cox Enterprises had already invested in Axios, which says the company was a key investor in fundraising rounds that brought in a self-reported $55 million. The site noted on Monday that Axios sill has plenty of that cash on hand, "because it's always been profitable."

The sale could be a boon for Axios workers: the site has previously declared that "EVERY employee is an owner" of the company.

The price tag for Axios is more than five times the $100 million in revenue it was reportedly projected to reach this year.

The acquisition comes as Axios launches three local newsletters this month, in San Francisco, Houston and Miami. The company said in July that its Axios Local newsletters had "surpassed 1 million subscribers in 24 markets."

The company's newsletters have been said to account for more than 50% of its revenue in recent years.

Axios founders will remain on its board

Under the deal's terms, the two companies will share seats on Axios' seven-person board, with Cox getting four slots and VandeHei, Allen and Schwartz accounting for the remaining three, according to Axios.

"This is great for Axios, for our shareholders and American journalism," VandeHei said.

Axios also reports that the deal calls for Cox to invest $25 million to bolster Axios' media operation. The purchase doesn't include Axios HQ, a software venture that will spin off into its own company, working with corporations' communications departments.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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