Meredith Group to Buy the Ladies’ Home Journal

Times Staff Writer

The publisher of Better Homes and Gardens magazine has agreed to pay $96 million for one of its major competitors in the women’s publishing category, the Ladies’ Home Journal, as well as for Health magazine.

Meredith Corp., a Des Moines-based publishing, broadcast and real estate company, is buying the two publications from Family Media Inc., a closely held publishing concern in New York. Neither company would disclose terms of the agreement, but both said they expect it to be completed by Jan. 1.

Family Media paid $15 million in July, 1982, to buy the Ladies’ Home Journal from Charter Co., a conglomerate with petroleum, publishing and insurance interests.


Meredith said it intends to operate the 63-year-old Better Homes and Gardens, which has a circulation of 8 million plus, and the 102-year-old Ladies’ Home Journal, which has a circulation of more than 5 million, “as autonomous profit centers.” The statement appeared to be aimed at defusing industry speculation that Meredith might merge the two magazines.

Meredith said that Health, which has a circulation of 1 million, will provide the company “with an opportunity to enter the health and family wellness categories with an important voice.”

The company said it anticipates that fiscal 1985-86 earnings will be reduced by about 30 cents per share because of the acquisition.

Family Media officials were unavailable for comment late Thursday, but the sale of Ladies’ Home Journal appears in keeping with the firm’s strategy of catering to more specific market segments. In February, it paid about $9 million to buy Savvy, a publication aimed at upscale working women. Its other publications include Golf Illustrated, World Tennis and the Homeowner.

The Ladies Home Journal and Better Homes and Gardens belong to a group of several dozen magazines that cater to the family, home and women’s market. As top sellers within that market--Better Homes and Gardens is No. 1 in readership--they also belong to a subgroup known among industry executives as “The Seven Sisters,” whose pages generally contain ideas on cooking, losing weight and home care.

The other five “sisters” are McCall’s, Family Circle, Women’s Day, Good Housekeeping and Redbook.


Industry executives say the home and women’s category has been growing in advertising revenue and readership in the last five years. But the market also has been changing as the role of women has changed. And it has become more competitive as new magazines such as Savvy and Working Woman, which are aimed at the growing number of female professionals, have hit the stands since the mid-1970s.

While these new magazines also have articles about food and exercise, they also focus on job-related issues such as child care for working mothers or how to invest in the stock market.

But the traditional home and women’s magazines also have benefited during the last five years from what one executive described as “a resurgence of family values.”

The executive noted that “the new family is not necessarily the traditional one, with a mother and father and two kids.”

“It could be a single parent, or a couple that isn’t married, or any number of situations, and we have to cater to all these audiences,” the executive said.