NEW YORK — Time Inc., the steward of some of the country's most circulated and storied magazine brands, will be sold to the lifestyle-magazine publisher Meredith Corp., the companies announced Sunday.
Meredith will pay $18.50 per share in the all-cash deal for a company that counts such titles as Time, Sports Illustrated and People in its portfolio, putting the price tag at about $1.85 billion. Of that sum, the conservative activists Charles and David Koch will contribute $650 million via their private-equity firm Koch Equity Development, putting an iconic magazine company in the hands of some of the country's biggest Republican donors.
Adding Time's debt would raise the total value of the deal to about $2.8 billion.
The deal marks the latest move in the consolidation-minded magazine business, whose owners are seeking scale as they attempt to combat diminished print readership and advertisers. Time Inc. recently reported a quarterly revenue drop of 9 percent as a result of these losses.
Meredith, based in Des Moines, owns Shape, Parents and other mass-market titles. Its most popular magazine, Better Homes & Gardens, has a circulation of 7.7 million, the fourth-highest for a magazine in the United States, according to the Magazine Publishers of America. Time is 13th, with 3.03 million.
"We are creating a premiere media company serving nearly 200 million American consumers across industry-leading digital, television, print, video, mobile and social platforms positioned for growth," Meredith chief executive Stephen Lacy said in a statement announcing the deal. He also noted savings as a result of streamlined operations.
Lacy did not indicate how aggressively Meredith will move to reconcile the legacy-driven business of its core brands with the relatively more digital-minded Time Inc. titles or what form the streamlining will take.
Rich Battista, who was named chief executive of Time Inc. last year, will step down after the merger is completed early next year.
"I am proud of our accomplishments," Battista said in a statement of the company, which was founded 95 years ago this week in New York. "Together, we moved quickly and successfully to launch, grow, and advance our multi-platform offerings during unprecedented times in the media sector."
Meredith executives said that no one affiliated with the Kochs will have a seat on the company's board and that there will be "no influence" exerted by the billionaire brothers on the magazines' editorial content.
But the involvement of people who donated hundreds of millions of dollars to mostly conservative causes during the 2016 campaign raises questions about the political direction of magazines that have strived for balanced centrism even in a more polarized time.
It also spurred speculation about the endgame of the Kochs and whether they will seek to become more active media players.
It has become more difficult for Time to stay entirely out of the fray. News of the acquisition comes the same weekend as President Trump and the magazine's leaders sparred on Twitter over whether they were close to naming Trump as its Person of the Year for the second consecutive year.
It also may not be the last move in a quickly shifting landscape for political journalism. The fate of CNN — another Trump bete noir — is uncertain as the Justice Department sues to stop parent company Time Warner from being acquired by AT&T.
The Time Inc. deal ends a dance between it and Meredith that began in 2013, when talks fell apart over which titles would be sold. Since then, other lifestyle and general-interest combinations have occurred, with another legendary publisher, Hearst, recently agreeing to buy Men's Health owner Rodale.