There is Russian money in the Forbes Media Holdings deal. Austin Russell is a cover
In recent days, it became known that Forbes Media Holdings did find a buyer. The information appeared in the mass media that the person is Austin Russell, the founder of the company Luminar, which manufactures lidars. Questions immediately arose: Russell’s fortune does not allow him to conduct such a purchase, he had never been involved in the media before, and the sources of attracting external capital were not reported.
Among other things, there was information that Russell is in the deal only for marketing: an American technology entrepreneur who is “returning Forbes to its historical homeland” (now the holding is owned by a company from Hong Kong). Further investigation revealed that other people were behind the deal and that Russell just needed to negotiate the deal with regulators.
So who is buying Forbes Media Holdings?
As AIN.Capital learned from three unrelated sources, one of the initiators of the purchase was Russian businessman Magomed Musaev. He currently presents himself as a venture capitalist, technology entrepreneur, and someone who wants to do impact investing.
In 2017, he invested $20 million in Luminar, when meeting with Russell. For him, the deal turned out to be a success — after the IPO, he managed to take $270 million from the company.
Magomed also owns the Forbes brand in Russia, the publication continues to work there unchanged and is one of the few remaining in the country. Many other magazines left the country.
Buying Forbes Global is Musaev’s long-standing plan. He talked about it back in 2021. The main goal is to own a popular and well-known mass media that will allow to fix the reputation and move away from the status of a Russian entrepreneur with a dubious reputation and dealings with people like DST’s Yuri Milner: a Russian who is no longer completely Russian. For this purpose, Musaev launched other projects aimed at impact investments and ESG.
In the winter of 2022, Musaev talked about the idea of buying out the shares of Integrated Whale Media for his friends and acquaintances. He didn’t really hide such intentions. AIN.Capital’s sources confirmed this conversation.
As sources close to Musaev told AIN.Capital, it was Musaev who was behind the agreement with Russell — he was one of its initiators and one of those who was going to finance the American businessman. The same information was confirmed to Axios. One of AIN.Capital’s interlocutors claim that Musaev and Russell have had a trusting relationship since the investment round, so there is nothing surprising in the fact that the American agreed to such an agreement.
A person close to Musaev told AIN.Capital that he is actually the one buying Forbes Media Holdings.
Musaev worked tirelessly for the Internet to only write about him as a successful investor, philanthropist, and person who is interested in the impact and development of the planet. Nevertheless, he is called the son-in-law of the ex-head of Dagestan, he worked in Luzhkov City Hall, and he has several public and not so scandals behind him. And there is much less information about his past than about recent years when he started investing in American startups.
Musaev is not the only one behind the agreement. In total, Axios managed to find the figures for the distribution of $656 million, which is necessary for the deal. We will remind you that the entire holding is valued at $656 million. The money is coming from:
- Austin Russell pledging $10 million of his own funds. The entrepreneur will not sell Luminar shares to finance the deal, this was confirmed by the company, which is currently deeply unprofitable.
- The Indian Sun Group, which also has close ties with the Russian Federation, is ready to invest about $200-$300 million. Its top manager even spoke at a joint conference with Putin on the same stage. The head of the Sung Group, Semafor emphasizes, made a fortune in the Russian Federation, and still about 5% of the fund’s assets are related to the Russian Federation.
- Kenyan billionaire Julius Mwale — several tens of millions of dollars. Fortune is more than $1 billion.
- The GSV Fund will not invest but will help raise funds from potential investors.
- Another 8% remains with the current owner.
The publication also emphasizes that the fact of the purchase of the Forbes Holdings or any other by foreign citizens or companies is not surprising. More questions are raised by the fact that an American businessman is used for the deal, covering with him a cohort of rather dubious investors whose money is connected to the Russian Federation.
The agreement is still not signed, although it has been announced. If Russell does not close it within the next few months, he will be forced to pay $35 million in damages.
UPD: Businessman from Kazakhstan Bulat Utemuratov has been deleted from the article as a participant in the acquisition. Axios updated the article with this statement: After this story was published, a spokesperson for Utemuratov told Axios that he had been involved in a previous bid for Forbes but is not now a participant in the newest deal effort.