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Publisher Of Rolling Stone Buys Share Of South By Southwest

Julia Reihs

South by Southwest has a new co-owner. Penske Media Corp., which publishes magazines like Rolling Stone and Variety, will own a 50% stake in the festival, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The festival has been owned locally since 1987 by a group consisting mostly of its founders.

For years, SXSW was a financial juggernaut, pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into the Austin economy. But Austin and Travis County officials forced it to call off the 2020 festival a week ahead of the event because of the coronavirus pandemic. Without a conference, SXSW cut a third of its full-time staff.

The festival returned this year in a shortened, virtual form but was looking for a financial lift to get back to a full-sized festival in 2022.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed and SXSW officials were unavailable for comment. SXSW says the festival will still be run by the founders' group.

Penske Media has been the subject of controversy recently. It received a $200 million investment from Saudi Arabia in 2018. It was pressured to sever those ties after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in a Saudi embassy later that year. To date, Penske Media has not.

In 2020, the Saudi government also bought a $500 million stake in Live Nation. This means two of Austin’s touchstone festivals — SXSW and Austin City Limits — will be partially financed by the Saudi government.

Jimmy is the assistant program director, but still reports on business and sports every now and then. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @maasdinero.
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