Sports Entertainment

Sports Illustrated’s future murky after massive layoffs stun publication

Sports Illustrated is not dead yet.

The iconic publication is on life support after it was revealed Friday that The Arena Group, which runs the editorial operation, was laying off almost all its staff after its license to use the SI name was revoked.

Both The Arena Group and Authentic — which owns the the brand — have said they intend to continue operating the website and magazine, though it’s not yet clear how.

“We are going to continue to operate Sports Illustrated,” The Arena Group’s Matt Lombardi said. “Either Arena or someone else is going to have the license to operate Sports Illustrated.”

Authentic Brands released a statement Friday, saying it plans to continue with Sports Illustrated’s editorial operations.

“Yesterday, The Arena Group’s license to serve as the publisher of Sports Illustrated was terminated as a result of the company’s failure to pay its quarterly license fee despite being given a notice of breach and an opportunity to cure the breach,” the company said in a statement provided to The Post. “Authentic is here to ensure that the brand of Sports Illustrated, which includes its editorial arm, continues to thrive as it has for the past nearly 70 years. We are confident that going forward the brand will continue to evolve and grow in a way that serves sports news readers, sports fans, and consumers.

“We are committed to ensuring that the traditional ad-supported Sports Illustrated media pillar has best in class stewardship to preserve the complete integrity of the brand’s legacy.”

Historical covers of Sports Illustrated magazine
The Arena Group laid off most of the Sports Illustrated staff on Friday. Alamy Stock Photo

Authentic was not aware of the layoffs beforehand, according to Awful Announcing.

“The layoffs are not an Authentic thing, they’re an Arena thing,” a representative told the outlet. “This is not something we were privy to.”

According to Front Office Sports, Authentic has already been in exploratory conversation to find a new publishing partner, though Axios reported that Bridge Media — which is owned by 5 Hour Energy founder Manoj Bhargava and set to merge with The Arena Group — is still in negotiations with Authentic.

The Sports Illustrated 2016 swimsuit issue of the magazine is seen with other tabloid magazines.
The Sports Illustrated 2016 swimsuit issue of the magazine is seen with other tabloid magazines. Corbis via Getty Images

A Friday SEC filing includes Arena owing Authentic $45 million after the revocation of the SI license.

Sports Illustrated, which began publishing in 1954, became a bastion of sports writing and photography in its heyday, but has since been sold from Time Inc. to Meredith and then to Authentic.

While there appear to be plans for it to continue in some form, it’s not clear what that form may be.