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National Geographic sells magazine, media assets to Fox for $725M

By Tomas Monzon
The National Geographic Society sold its iconic magazine and other media assets Wednesday to 21st Century Fox. File photo by JuliusKielaitis/Shutterstock
The National Geographic Society sold its iconic magazine and other media assets Wednesday to 21st Century Fox. File photo by JuliusKielaitis/Shutterstock

WASHINGTON, Sept. 10 (UPI) -- The National Geographic Society sold its iconic yellow-bordered magazine and other media assets to Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox for $725 million, the companies announced Wednesday.

National Geographic Society, which found the magazine in 1888, has chosen to sell the publication amid slumping circulation and advertising sales.

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The society will still control 27 percent of the media operation, which has been renamed National Geographic Partners. Based in Washington, the partnership will include National Geographic-branded cable channels, digital properties and the magazine proper.

Fox has partnered with the magazine's makers before when in 1997 the duo launched the National Geographic cable TV channel and other smaller channels. These have represented a steady source of income with operating profits of more than $400 million in 2014.

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But the society's print products haven't had the same success. In the late 1980s, the magazine had a circulation of 12 million whereas now about 3.5 million people subscribe to the magazine in the United States and an additional 3 million subscribe to non-English versions.

Magazine staffers have been wary about the partnership because of the apparently competing mindset of the staffers and new stakeholders, The Washington Post reported. The typically highbrow writing of the magazine could be seen as being at odds with content in Fox-produced television shows like Doomsday Preppers and Banged up Abroad.

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The magazine's editor in chief, Susan Goldberg, said Fox acknowledged its occasional misrepresentation of the magazine's image but said the resources provided by the company will be invaluable. Fox's chief executive and Murdoch's youngest son, James Murdoch, met with staffers on Wednesday and expressed his appreciation for the magazine and plans to modify it.

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