US news website Axios agrees $525m sale to Cox Enterprises

·2 min read
<span>Photograph: Ric Feld/AP</span>
Photograph: Ric Feld/AP

For $525m, Axios – publisher of punchy, notated news briefs – is set to be acquired by Cox Enterprises, a legacy publisher that owns a series of US regional newspapers.

The cash deal, announced Monday, is expected to close in the next few weeks and marks a significant moment in the growth of the news outlet, which was founded in 2016 by the same journalists who launched Politico in 2007.

Axios said on its website that as part of the deal Cox will invest $25m in the company that would help it expand into 20 regional US markets and broaden its coverage.

The Virginia company’s three co-founders – Jim VandeHei, Mike Allen and Roy Schwartz – will hold stakes in the company and lead editorial as well as day-to-day business decisions.

Cox, whose media portfolio includes the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Dayton Daily News, became an investor in Axios last year. Axios HQ, a communications software business, will become an independent company majority-owned by the Axios founders.

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On its website, Axios said the deal was structured “to ensure investments will continue to flow into local news at a time when most commercial investors have abandoned local markets”.

Axios chief executive Jim VandeHei said the deal was great for the company, its shareholders and journalism as an industry. “It allows us to think and operate generationally, with a like-minded partner – and build something great and durable that lives long after we are gone,” he said.

Added Cox chairman and chief executive officer Alex Taylor: “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.”

Last year, the German publishing giant Axel Springer acquired the Washington news site Politico for about $1bn. Axios had also been in talks to sell to Springer, but that deal fell through after a high-level editor at the Springer-owned tabloid Bild became embroiled in a sex scandal.

Cox’s history in media dates back to 1898, when founder James Middleton Cox bought what is now the Dayton Daily News for $26,000. It eventually grew into one of the nation’s largest privately held companies before selling most of its media assets to Apollo Global Management in 2019.

In comments to the New York Times, VandeHei said: “Hopefully, with Politico first, and Axios today, we have shown a way for serious journalism to thrive in the digital era. This country so desperately needs it.

“The lesson of the digital era: chase fads, fantasy and clicks, you fade or famish. Chase a loyal audience with quality information, you can flourish,” he added.