Media startup Axios is reportedly in merger talks with sports-media outlet The Athletic, and the combined company could go public

Jim VandeHei Axios
CEO Jim VandeHei. Axios
  • Axios and The Athletic are reportedly in merger talks to create a larger online-publishing company.
  • The Athletic CEO Alex Mather approached Axios CEO Jim VandeHei last week, sources told the WSJ.
  • The final company may look to go public via a merger with blank-check SPAC, they added.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

US news website Axios is in merger talks with sports-media outlet The Athletic, people familiar with the matter told the Wall Street Journal on Friday.

The discussions are at an early stage and may not come to anything, the people said. They didn’t reveal the financial terms.

Axios CEO Jim VandeHei said in an emailed statement that Axios leadership had “long been admirers of The Athletic business and content.”

“We have talked for literally years about our shared passion for premium content businesses. That said, we would never comment on private discussions about possible partnerships or deals,” he said.

The overall goal of the merger would be to create a larger company that could expand or acquire other digital publishers, people familiar with a presentation for potential investors told the Journal.

The combined company may look to raise capital by going public via a merger with a special-purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, the people said. This is a cheaper, faster alternative to an initial public offering (IPO).

Other options were under consideration, they said.

Read more: 
The 59 top technology reporters every public relations pro should know

The Athletic CEO Alex Mather approached Axios CEO Jim VandeHei last week to propose the merger, the people said. Mather and VandeHei have spoken about business opportunities during the pandemic but the talks have escalated recently, they added.

Axios and The Athletic believe selling subscriptions to businesses at a premium rate is a potential growth area, the people said.

Both companies would continue to operate separately, one of the people told the Journal, with each having their own journalists and editorial products.

The Athletic told Insider: “We do not comment on rumor or speculation. Axios has built an incredible business and we have enjoyed many conversations over the years.”