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Sports Illustrated's publisher terminates most of staff in mass layoff, union says

Sports Illustrated employees were notified on Friday that a "significant number, if not all" of their jobs were set to be eliminated, according to a new statement from the publication's union.

The Sports Illustrated union posted on X: "This is another difficult day in what has been a difficult four years for Sports Illustrated under Arena Group (previously The Maven) stewardship. We are calling on ABG to ensure the continued publication of SI and allow it to serve our audience in the way it has for nearly 70 years."

Mitch Goldich, unit chair of the SI union and NFL editor, said in a statement that the union will continue to fight for the publication.

"We have fought together as a union to maintain the standard of this storied publication that we love, and to make sure our workers are treated fairly for the value they bring to this company. It is a fight we will continue," he said.

PHOTO: In this Nov. 23, 2012, file photo, copies of Sports Illustrated's Heisman Running to Greatness issue are shown in the stands at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla. (Don Juan Moore/AP, FILE)
PHOTO: In this Nov. 23, 2012, file photo, copies of Sports Illustrated's Heisman Running to Greatness issue are shown in the stands at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla. (Don Juan Moore/AP, FILE)

Sports Illustrated has been owned by Authentic Brands Group since 2019 but sold its publishing rights to The Arena Group. This week, The Arena Group also announced a significant reduction to its workforce of 100 employees.

In December 2023, Sports Illustrated CEO Ross Levinsohn was fired by The Arena Group's board to "improve the operational efficiency and revenue of the company," the company said at the time. Manoj Bhargava was named interim CEO.

Operations President and COO Andrew Kraft, media president Rob Barrett and corporate counsel Julie Fenster were also terminated late last year.

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In a statement to ABC News, a spokesperson for The Arena Group said, "Even though the publishing license has been revoked, we will continue to produce Sports Illustrated until this is resolved."

The spokesperson noted that the company is in "active discussions" with ABG but they "aren't the only ones."

"We hope to be the company to take SI forward but if not, we are confident that someone will. If it is another business, we will support with the transition so the legacy of Sports Illustrated doesn't suffer," the spokesperson said.

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Sports Illustrated has been a leading voice in sports journalism for 70 years, in both print and online. The magazine was developed in 1954 by Time magazine creator Henry Luce.

In 2018, Sports Illustrated was purchased by Meredith Publishing as part of the sale of Time, Inc. Less than a year later, the publication was sold to Authentic Brands Group for $110 million.

PHOTO: LeBron James is shown on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine. (Business Wire via AP)
PHOTO: LeBron James is shown on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine. (Business Wire via AP)

Mark Conrad, Director of the Sports Business Concentration and Professor of Law and Ethics at Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business, shared a statement with ABC News on what he sees as the "slow and long process where the once-preeminent journal for sports meets its demise."

Sports Illustrated moved from weekly to biweekly publication in 2018 and in 2020 it was reduced to monthly issues.

"This is a sad event for sports journalism because SI was a breeding ground for some of the finest long-form writers (sports and otherwise) found in American journalism," Conrad continued. "It has devolved from this point for many years, but at a time when sports reporting has seen its share of cutbacks in major daily papers, it is one more step in that process."

ABC News has reached out to Authentic Brands Group and Sports Illustrated for comment.

Sports Illustrated's publisher terminates most of staff in mass layoff, union says originally appeared on abcnews.go.com