Sports Illustrated planning to lay off most, if not all, staff

File: Muhammad Ali, surrounded by fans, emerges from a training session preparing for his fight with Jimmy Elllis yelling "I am the Greatest" and holding a copy of the July 26, 1971 issue of Sports Illustrated that bears his portrait, Houston. Texas.

The publisher of Sports Illustrated has notified employees it is planning to lay off a significant portion — possibly all — of the outlet's staff after its license to use the iconic brand's name in print and digital was revoked.

In an email to employees Friday morning, the Arena Group, which operates Sports Illustrated and related properties, said that Authentic Brands Group has revoked its marketing license.

"As a result of this license revocation, we will be laying off staff that work on the SI brand," the email said.

Sports Illustrated's employee union said in a statement that the layoffs would be a significant number and possibly all, of the NewsGuild workers represented.


File: In this photo illustration, Sports Illustrated magazines are seen on January 23, 2015 in Miami, Florida. (Photo Illustration by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

"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," Mitch Goldich, NFL editor and unit chair, said in a statement.

The guild's statement also called for Authentic Brands Group to "ensure the continued publication of SI and allow it to serve our audience in the way it has for nearly 70 years."

The Arena Group acquired publishing rights from ABG in 2019 for at least 10 years. The group’s stewardship of SI has had many hurdles since then. In December, it fired chief executive officer Ross Levinsohn when the magazine’s alleged use of AI-generated stories drew public backlash.

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The iconic sports brand has had a rough six years. It was acquired by Meredith Publishing in 2018 as part of the purchase of Time Inc., which started the magazine in 1954.


File: Cover models Rachel Hunter, Veronica Varekova, Yamila Diaz-Rahi, Daniela Pestova and Elsa Benitez participate in the 2006 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue unveiling event at Crobar, February 14, 2006 in New York City. (Photo by Evan Agostini/G

Less than a year later, Meredith sold the magazine's intellectual property to Authentic Brands Group for $110 million. ABG owns the intellectual property of many brands and stars, including Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Muhammad Ali and Reebok.

Once a weekly publication, SI was reduced to biweekly publishing in 2018 and became a monthly in 2020.