There’s one thing about the media business that has been true since 1898. The Cox family knows how to make money in it.
It started when James Cox bought the Dayton Evening News (later the Daily News) and grew an empire. At one time, the privately-owned company owned 17 daily newspapers. Along the way came dozens of radio stations, television stations and cable systems. When I worked for a Cox-owned TV station nearly 30 years ago, every one of the company’s stations was the top-rated in its local market, something no other owner could claim, and most were longtime powerhouses. The sisters at the top of the company were among the wealthiest handful of Americans, while one of their sons ran the business. The family was basically the Warren Buffett of media.
In recent years, though, Cox Enterprises made some enormous changes – unthinkable while it was dominating what is now considered “traditional media.” They sold a majority stake in their local broadcasting business to a hedge fund (Apollo Global Management now owns 81% of Cox Media Group). Cox only owns two newspapers – the one in Dayton and the one in its corporate hometown of Atlanta. Those of us watching were wondering what could be next, with Cox essentially pulling out of local TV and radio. What did they have up their sleeves?
After years of shrinking its media holdings, Cox just made a purchase. The company now owns Axios.
The half-billion+ cash deal is big bet on what Cox believes is a viable, profitable news and information platform. In business, especially media, past isn’t always prologue. But, in this case, given the buyer, there’s a better chance than not of a future that includes Axios.