Axios sells majority stake to Cox Enterprises.

Cox bought a minority stake in Axios last year, and the relationship evolved. Taylor said the pairing of Cox and Axios is a natural fit for a family business founded on journalism more than a century ago.

Cox is one of the nation’s largest family-owned companies with annual revenues of more than $20 billion. Cox was founded in 1898 by Ohio Governor James M. Cox and his purchase of the Dayton Daily News. Cox has owned and operated newspapers, including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and television and radio stations for decades.

In recent years, Cox has sold majority stakes in its television and radio stations, although it retains a minority stake. The Axios deal brings Cox back into the national media landscape at a time when the company has sought to overhaul and diversify its businesses.

Taylor said the AJC, Dayton Daily News and Cox’s other Ohio newspapers will not be affected by the transaction and each will continue to operate independently. Taylor said there could be opportunities for media companies to collaborate, but there are no plans to integrate the companies.

Cox Enterprises President and CEO Alex Taylor said Axios is a natural fit for a family business founded in journalism more than a century ago.

Credit: AJC file photo

Credit: AJC file photo

Cox Enterprises President and CEO Alex Taylor said Axios is a natural fit for a family business founded in journalism more than a century ago.

Credit: AJC file photo

Credit: AJC file photo

Cox also operates broadband giant Cox Communications, automotive companies such as AutoTrader and has forged into new sectors such as agriculture and cleantech. Cox is also one of the largest investors in electric vehicle startup Rivian.

Terms of the Axios deal were not disclosed. When Cox made its first investment in Axios last year, the commitment The company was reportedly valued at $430 million.

Taylor credited Axios founders Jim VandeHei, Mike Allen and Roy Schwartz for recruiting top reporters and creating a nonpartisan, factual style of storytelling.

Taylor said “the fourth estate is more important now than ever” in this era of political polarization.

The co-founders will retain stakes in the company described as “substantial” and will continue to lead Axios’ day-to-day business and editorial decisions.

“We have found our kindred spirit to create a great, trusted and consistent media company that can outlive us all,” Axios CEO VandeHei said in a press release. “Our shared ambitions should be clear: to spread clinical, non-partisan and trusted journalism to as many cities and as many issues as quickly as possible.”

The global media landscape has undergone a seismic shift in recent decades. Newspapers have been hit by declining print subscriptions and advertising revenue that has shifted to tech giants like Google and Facebook. Newsrooms have gone digital even though they are still weighed down with legacy operations and costs. Broadcast and cable news have also been challenged by cord cutting and changing advertising spending and consumer preferences.

The disruption has opened the door to new entrants, including Axios and sports publications like The Athletic. European media giant Axel Springer recently acquired Politico and is said to have explored an investment in Axios.

Earlier this year, The Athletic was acquired by The New York Times Co. and now Axios joins Cox.

Taylor, who will join Axios’ board, said Axios is profitable with much of its revenue coming from digital advertising and subscribers to its Pro offerings.

As part of the deal, Axios’ communications software business, known as Axios HQ, will become a separate company that will be majority-owned by its founders, with Cox as its sole minority investor. VandeHei will be the president of Axios HQ and Schwartz will be its CEO.

Taylor said it’s possible the Axios HQ relationship will expand as well.

“We are excited to enter this new chapter with Cox and the opportunities we can explore with Axios HQ as an independent business,” Schwartz said in the statement. “For both companies, our mission is to help many people and businesses become smarter and faster at what really matters in this world.”

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