Summarized from The Texas Monthly Standup Desk
Texas Monthly’s New Owner
Houston investor Randa Duncan Williams pledges to protect the magazine’s legacy and boost investments in its long-term growth.
Texas Monthly has a new owner. Two and a half years after the award-winning publication was sold to Genesis Park, the Houston-based private equity firm founded by Paul Hobby, it has been purchased by Texas Monthly, LLC, a newly formed affiliate of Enterprise Products Company (EPCO), a privately held firm also based in Houston. The chairman of both Texas Monthly, LLC, and EPCO is Randa Duncan Williams.
Williams will be Texas Monthly’s fourth owner since its founding by Mike Levy in 1973. Levy sold the magazine to Indiana-based Emmis Communications in 1998, and that company sold it in late 2016 to Hobby.
Like Hobby, whose father served as lieutenant governor of Texas and whose grandfather was governor, Williams, 57, comes from a legendary Texas family. She is one of four children of the late oil billionaire and philanthropist Dan Duncan, who founded Houston-based Enterprise Products Partners, a publicly traded midstream energy company. Forbes recently listed Williams as the ninth wealthiest person in Texas. EPCO, Texas Monthly’s new parent company, also owns various commercial real estate and ranching ventures, as well as a substantial stake in Enterprise Products Partners.
“I have been an avid Texas Monthly reader since I was a teenager,” Williams said in a statement. “I especially enjoy the longform storytelling that has helped earn the magazine fourteen National Magazine Awards—the industry’s equivalent of an Oscar—over its 46-year history. My family is delighted to provide the resources to support this iconic Texas institution, which is nationally recognized for its editorial flair. The journalistic integrity and quality for which Texas Monthly is known will remain unchanged as we build upon what Genesis Park has done over the past two years.”
Hobby praised Williams as a “quiet, smart, and decisive” leader. “She loves Texas Monthly as much as anybody ever did. She can recall, paragraph by paragraph, Texas Monthly articles from ten years ago.”
Williams’s purchase of Texas Monthly comes at a time of great change in the media industry. As new forms of digital media have changed consumer habits and upended the advertising industry, many traditionally print-based publishing businesses have shut their doors, downsized, or consolidated. Under Hobby’s ownership, Texas Monthly began to aggressively reshape its business and editorial operations for this new reality. According to the company, Texas Monthly’s total audience has grown 76 percent since late 2016. Digital revenue has grown from 8 percent of ad sales in 2017 to 20 percent in 2019, while event sponsorship revenue has grown from 6 percent to 18 percent of the total. Print ad revenue has declined in the same period. In addition to a more robust web presence, Texas Monthly has introduced new podcasts and new live events such as Texas Monthly LIVE and the annual EDGE: The Texas Monthly Festival.
In January 2019, Hobby hired Dan Goodgame, a veteran magazine editor and correspondent (most notably at Time magazine) who’d most recently worked as a communications executive at the San Antonio–based cloud computing company Rackspace, to be the new editor-in-chief. Goodgame and Texas Monthly president Scott Brown will continue to work closely together and will report independently to Williams, as they did to Hobby.
Both Goodgame and Brown expressed great hopes for the company’s future under Williams. In a business environment where journalists at many publications have become accustomed to hearing that they’ll have to produce more content across more platforms with fewer resources, it’s “great news,” Goodgame said, that Williams aims to build on the work of Genesis Park and boost long-term investments in Texas Monthly’s editorial staff, subscription marketing, and other key areas. “What Genesis Park brought to us was the investment needed to begin to extend our brand beyond print to the platforms where audiences and revenue are growing,” Goodgame said. “What Randa wants to bring is an acceleration of those investments—to make the print magazine better than ever and extend that same level of excellence in storytelling across other platforms. That requires resources. And she intends to provide them.”
“She wants to own it forever,” added Brown. “She is committed to a long-term investment, and that is a great opportunity for us to adopt a set of long-range business drivers.”
Both Brown and Goodgame emphasized that Texas Monthly’s long tradition of deep reporting and longform storytelling will remain a core editorial focus. “People consume storytelling more than they ever have,” Goodgame said. “They just do it in many different ways today. We have the journalists and photographers and designers to do that well already, and we will continue to grow new muscles to do it in new ways.” That means not only more podcasts and events and web journalism but also, he said, a new focus on selling Texas Monthly stories to producers of movies, streaming video, and TV series. To that end, Texas Monthly recently switched its representation in Hollywood from William Morris Endeavor to Creative Artists Agency.
Hobby said that he first received interest from potential buyers of Texas Monthly shortly after Genesis Park purchased the magazine. “My signaling was always, ‘Let’s complete the process of change first.’” Early this year, he said, the company retained Goldman Sachs to assist in a potential sale and identified multiple potential bidders who could be good stewards of the brand for the long term. One of those people was Williams—though she had not been one of the early suitors. “I knew about her passion for the brand,” Hobby said, “and it was a logical conclusion that she would be interested.”
From that point on, the sale process involved a “rigorous” review of the business by Williams’s team, Brown said. “They have looked under every rock. They have looked at the business through every lens. The diligence process has been exhaustive, and they believe in Texas Monthly.”
Hobby called this new deal “an ideal outcome for everyone involved. The way it played out is poetic.”