ARTnews Magazine has been sold, price tag $2 million. The buyer is Skate Capital Corp., Sergey Skaterschikov’s Russian art and media investment company. But who exactly is behind this faceless investment vehicle?
The rumor all week was that Polish company Abbey House Group SA was believed to be the new owner. Sources told artnet News the Warsaw-based art-investment and media group had begun legal and accounting procedures to purchase the 112-year old magazine for $2 million. Leslie Sufrin and Co. PC—an accounting, audit, tax and consulting firm that specializes in servicing media acquisitions—was handling the sale, we learned.
Abbey House Group SA is many things, including an auction house, commercial gallery, art investment consulting service, and nascent art world media owner that is publicly traded on the Warsaw stock exchange. In February 2014, the Company acquired a 100 percent stake in Skate’s LLC and is majority owner of Poland’s oldest monthly magazine about art—Art & Business. According to FT.Com, Abbey House Group SA’s stock is trading down 48.75 percent over the last year, with year on year revenues falling 37.23 percent from $9.27 million to $5.82 million, contributing to a reduction in net income from $2.01 million to $381,300, an 81 percent decrease. Business has not been good, it seems.
The real question is how connected is Skate Capital Corp. to Abbey House? Is there a link? The two are clearly closely connected, given the acquisition of Skate’s LLC. There are also questions as to who actually owns Abbey House and what their business model is. Jakub Kokoszka and Izabela Depczyk are listed as Managing Directors of Abbey House Group SA. But in February this year, Next Media Group Ltd, a Luxembourg-based investment company acquired a 50.1 percent stake in the share capital of the company for a total value of PLN 19.2 million ($6.3 million). Next Media Group directors Marcin Depczyk and Alexey Pivovarov joined the supervisory board of Abbey House effective February 6, 2014, with Depczyk taking on the role of chairman. And you guessed it: He is Izabela’s father.
What however is Next Media Group Ltd? Online research reveals a modest website where the investment company is described thus: “Established in 2013, Next Media Group is focused on strategic long-term investments into companies functioning within the sphere of culture economics with a specific focus on e-commerce and art media industry.”
Back in New York, nobody was talking. Sufrin would not return requests for comment. A receptionist and an accountant at ARTnews, reached on separate occasions, would neither confirm nor deny news of the sale. ARTnews editor and publisher Milton Esterow and associate publisher and owner Judith Esterow did not return calls for comment. Abbey House did not initially return email requests for comment, though Friday morning sent a brief email to artnet News denying they were the new owners of the magazine. Now Skaterschikov has announced his investment company is the buyer. An ARTnews staff member however told artnet News that this week Skaterschikov was introduced to the staff, alongside a representative from Abbey House.
Founded in 1902, ARTnews is the oldest art magazine in the world and for a long time was the most widely circulated. Mr. Esterow has spent four decades at the helm, during which the magazine won awards for reporting, analysis, and criticism. But for a decade or more readership and advertising sales have dwindled and the magazine has struggled to remain relevant. Esterow bravely branched out into the web to no avail.
Today the product is losing around $300,000–350,000 a year, internal sources say, and rumors of a sale have been swirling for the past six months.
Update: Two weeks after the announced acquisition of ARTnews Magazine, Skate Capital Corp. announced it had sold a 51% controlling interest in the magazine to guess who: Abbey House Group SA.
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