Christian Stone, the longtime Sports Illustrated editor-in-chief is leaving his post, and dozens of staffers are facing layoffs.
Stone's departure was announced in a memo from the magazine's new Chief Executive Ross Levinsohn to employees earlier this week, and the layoffs are reportedly part of a restructuring of the magzine that will replace staff writers with a cadre of freelancers and contractors, according to The Wall Street Journal. The layoffs would claim more than 40 positions, according to the Journal. Deadspin reported that “as much as 50 percent of the staff” could be shown the door. The staffers are expected to the be replaced by "as many as 200 contract workers," according to the Journal.
TheMaven Inc. licensed the rights to the sports media outlet’s print and digital publications in June and Levinsohn as the new chief executive, according to Deadspin. TheMaven reportedly plans a broad overhaul of Sports Illustrated, potentially switching over to a contributor-based network model that Levinsohn implemented at the Los Angeles times – a move met with significant backlash. The extent of the layoffs, however, remains unknown, with conflicting reports emerging.
The layoffs have been met with confusion and controversy. Company-wide “transition meetings,” at which employees expected to be told their fate, were scheduled for noon on Thursday but were they canceled minutes before they were scheduled to begin, according to employees.
Sports Illustrated did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Licensing firm Authentic Brands Group purchased the storied magazine for an estimated $110 million from previous owner Meredith Corp. Authentic Brands then agreed to license the publication to TheMaven in a 10-year deal worth $45 million, plus royalties.
Sports Illustrated has undergone several cutbacks and workforce adjustments in recent years as print and newsstand revenue continue to decrease. “One-in-five U.S. adults say they often get news via social media, slightly higher than the share who often do so from print newspapers,” according to a 2018 Pew Research report.