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Singapore-based BandLab loses bid to take control of Rolling Stone after founder sells to Penske Media

Singapore-based social music company BandLab Technologies has failed in its aim to become the majority owner of Rolling Stone after the magazine’s founder, Jann Wenner, sold his controlling 51% interest to Penske Media.

BandLab founder, Kuok Meng Ru, who acquired 49% of the publication in 2016, told Bloomberg last month he was in talks with Wenner and was keen to take full ownership.

Three other buyers were apparently in the running.

Jay Penske, owner of Penske Media, said after completing the deal that he hoped Rolling Stone “continues to ascend for decades across multiple media platforms”.

“Our interest in Rolling Stone is driven by its people, its cultural significance and the globally recognised brand that has no peer in its areas of influence,” he added.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed. Wenner, however, will not relinquish his links with the magazine after being named editorial director.

Since acquiring 49% of the magazine in September 2016, BandLab established Rolling Stone International to expand the brand abroad, including the signing of a license agreement with Japan’s CCC Group to publish the magazine in Japan.

In an interview with Variety, Kuok said he had been exploring “all options” with Wenner during discussions over the 51% stake.

“There’s been a lot of speculation and we can’t comment on that that, but as the 49% holder in the business, it was very important to us that Rolling Stone was in good hands,” he was quoted as saying. “And therefore while we were exploring all possible options of what could be done, our position was to be very open minded.

“I’m confident that the setup we have now is the best possible setup for the future of Rolling Stone.”

Asked if he was still committed to keeping hold of its 49% shareholding, Kuok said: “Absolutely, we’ve never felt more excited about the future of the brand. Someone else has now come in and shown the same level of commitment and belief in what Rolling Stone can become.”

Rolling Stone was founded by Wenner and music critic Ralph Gleason in San Francisco in 1967. It has since become one of the most iconic and enduring mastheads in magazine publishing.

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