Who’s Really Buying Forbes? $800 Million Deal Backed by Sun Group, GSV (Report)

Forbes confirmed on Friday that 28-year-old billionaire Austin Russell had acquired a majority stake in the business media outlet, but the buyer group behind the $800 million deal is more international than it would appear. Axios reported Saturday that a buyer group that includes Sun Group, GSV and others is backing the bid.

Russell, CEO of the automotive tech company Luminar, told the Wall Street Journal Friday he would be purchasing a majority share—82%—of Forbes, valuing the publication at close to $800 million. However, Axios media reporter and CNN analyst Sara Fischer says there’s more to the story.

“This deal is made to look like it’s Austin Russell buying 82% of this asset but it’s not,” Fischer reported on Twitter. “The bid is being financially supported by Sun Group, GSV, and others. Russell’s bid [is] a cover to make it look like the [company is] being vastly acquired by American money.”

Sun Group is an Indian media conglomerate that owns several cable news networks, radio stations, newspapers and magazines. Sun Group has been in talks to purchase Forbes for months, but a deal was never officially made. Forbes has faced criticism for dealing with Sun Group, as it has had ties to Russia. GSV is a venture capital firm based in Chicago.

Forbes is being sold by Integrated Whale Media, a Hong-Kong based company that purchased a majority stake in the media outlet from the Forbes family in 2014. The family sold off their remaining shares in Friday’s deal.

Axios claims the conflicting information is the result of a calculated move by Forbes to avoid regulatory concerns.

“Forbes is something I had always looked up to as a brand and as a media empire,” Russell said to the Wall Street Journal Friday. WSJ said Russell will not be involved in the media company’s news coverage or operations on a day-to-day basis, but will focus on the business’ “philanthropy” and growth.

Forbes did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.

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Forbes Majority Stake Sold to Billionaire Austin Russell, Company Valued at $800 Million