DC Thomson takes full ownership of ShortList Media

Mike Soutar: chief executive, Shortlist Media
Mike Soutar: chief executive, Shortlist Media

DC Thomson, a long-standing investor of ShortList Media, has bought the 50% of the multimedia company it did not already own for an undisclosed sum.

The sale follows ShortList Media being run as a 50/50 joint venture with DC Thomson since minority investors divested shares in December 2013.

The media company posted revenues of £23 million for the year to end of August 2014.

Led by chief executive Mike Soutar, Shortlist Media pioneered the free, quality weekly magazine format when it launched men’s magazine ShortList in 2007, which Soutar would go on to term "freemium".

ShortList soon became the biggest distributing magazine in the men's lifestyle sector with an audited weekly ABC in excess of 500,000.

Two years later, and despite a tough economic climate, the company launched Stylist, the free weekly women’s magazine, in October 2009.

Despite entering a highly competitive sector, Stylist has carved a strong role for itself by tapping into the lucrative fashion and beauty market with a print distribution in excess of 400,000.

Digitally, Shortlist Media has created significant scale. Launched in 2010, ShortList.com and Stylist.co.uk are powerful, fast-growing websites for urban men and women.

The company has also developed standalone digital brands including the stylish daily email services Emerald Street and Mr Hyde. The tablet edition of Stylist is the most downloaded women’s weekly magazine in the UK.

Soutar said: "DC Thomson’s acquisition is an important milestone for our business. It marks the moment where we move from a plucky upstart into a long-term growth business with the solid ownership and backing of one of the most revered players in media.

"Until now we have relied upon our own resources to develop and launch new brands and lines – but with DC Thomson’s investment and support we can now accelerate our launch and acquisition plans."

The company has been expanding its international footprint too, launching Stylist France as a joint venture with Group Marie Claire in 2013.

Last October the group launched Stylist Arabia under licence with APP in the Middle East and ShortList Middle East is due to launch in Dubai and Abu Dhabi later this year.

ShortList Media has a senior management team that have been with the business since launch that will stay with the business, believed to be on three year earns-outs.

The team is made up of co-founder and strategy director Tim Ewington, Karl Marsden who has recently been promoted from managing director to chief operating officer, editorial director Phil Hilton and creative director Matt Phare.

Richard Hall, the DC Thomson director, said: "Having been a founder investor and board member since the business began DC Thomson has immense confidence in the Shortlist Media business and its wonderful brands.

"The business is blessed with a dynamic senior management team and we are well aware of the brilliant talent throughout the organisation. DC Thomson owns and operates a media business that spans newspapers, magazines, digital platforms and broadcast.

"We have a long heritage in investing in businesses we believe in and Shortlist Media is our latest example of identifying and backing breakthrough ideas from their earliest days.

"We are delighted that the management team have committed to remain with the business, under Mike's leadership. With our backing, we are confident Shortlist Media will continue to create and grow."

DC Thomson is a family-owned Scottish company that were founder investors in Shortlist Media. ShortList joins a portfolio that includes genealogy company findmypast, IT business services provider brightsolid, global book publisher Parragon Books and magazine publishers This England and Puzzler Media.

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