Tech CEO Austin Russell's bid to buy Forbes fails

Luminar founder and CEO Austin Russell's bid to buy Forbes Global Media Holdings has ended. Integrated Whale Media Investments, the Hong Kong-based parent company of Forbes, terminated the agreement with Russell after he failed to secure the ideal group of investors needed to close the deal.

Bloomberg was the first to report the news, citing an internal memo by Forbes Chief Executive Officer Mike Federle.

"The Forbes acquisition was all about impact, and to further the philosophy of business-for-good and philanthropy with the next generation of capitalism," a statement provided by Austin Russell's family office reads. "At this juncture, it was determined that it was in the best interest of the parties that the contract be terminated. We wish nothing but the best to the Forbes team.”

Russell, the 28-year-old founder and tech star, announced back in May plans to buy an 82% stake in Forbes Global Media Holdings in a deal that values the company at nearly $800 million. The intention, which was initially successful, was to bring in a number of investors to back the acquisition. The deal was supposed to close November 1, but fell apart after Indian investment firm Sun Group and others didn't wire the money they were contractually obligated to, Axios reported earlier this month. Sun Group vice chair Shiv Khemka had reportedly committed to invest $300 million into the acquisition.

Russell was granted an extension to the deadline and has spent the past two weeks shoring up the multimillion-dollar shortfall. In another wrinkle, an updated agreement sent to the Russell camp contained terms to the investor group that were described as untenable, according to sources familiar with the deal.

Forbes, a media company perhaps best known for its magazine and lists that rank billionaires, sold 95% of the company to Integrated Whale Media back in 2014. Forbes Media had planned to go public via a merger with special purpose acquisition company Magnum Opus Acquisition Limited, but called off the agreement in June 2022.

Forbes has been up for sale ever since. Russell — who was described by Forbes itself in 2021 as the world’s youngest self-made billionaire — was the latest example of a tech magnate getting into the media business. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos bought The Washington Post in 2013 and Salesforce chair, CEO and co-founder Marc Benioff, along with his wife Lynne Benioff, acquired Time from parent company Meredith Corporation for $190 million in cash in 2018. More recently, Elon Musk bought Twitter in a tumultuous deal that has resulted in the social media site's name change to X.