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Publisher Of Rolling Stone Buys Share Of South By Southwest

South by Southwest has a new co-owner. Penske Media Corp., which publishes magazines like Rolling Stone and Variety, will own a 50% stake in the festival, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The festival has been owned locally since 1987 by a group consisting mostly of its founders.

For years, SXSW was a financial juggernaut, pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into the Austin economy. But Austin and Travis County officials forced it to call off the 2020 festival a week ahead of the event because of the coronavirus pandemic. Without a conference, SXSW cut a third of its full-time staff.

The festival returned this year in a shortened, virtual form but was looking for a financial lift to get back to a full-sized festival in 2022.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed and SXSW officials were unavailable for comment. SXSW says the festival will still be run by the founders' group.

Penske Media has been the subject of controversy recently. It received a $200 million investment from Saudi Arabia in 2018. It was pressured to sever those ties after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in a Saudi embassy later that year. To date, Penske Media has not.

In 2020, the Saudi government also bought a $500 million stake in Live Nation. This means two of Austin’s touchstone festivals — SXSW and Austin City Limits — will be partially financed by the Saudi government.

Copyright 2021 KUT 90.5. To see more, visit KUT 90.5.

I grew up in Austin and studied journalism at the University of Texas. I began my radio career making fun of headlines on local sports and news talk shows. I moved to New York City to be a comic. Found some pretty good "day jobs” managing a daily news radio show for the Wall Street Journal and later, producing business news for Bloomberg Television. Upon returning to Austin, I dabbled in many things, including hosting nights and weekends on KUT and producing nightly TV news. Now I’m waking up early to make Morning Edition on KUT even better than it already is.