Thai tycoon buys Fortune magazine

A member of the family that owns Charoen Pokphand Group, Thailand’s largest agro-industrial conglomerate, purchased legacy American business magazine Fortune last week for $150 million and said he intends to fund an expansion in the magazine’s staff and geographic coverage.

“Our vision is to establish Fortune as the world’s leading business media brand, with an always-on reach and global relevance,” new owner Chatchaval Jiaravanon said in a statement reported on the Fortune website.

Chatchaval is a low-profile nephew of Dhanin Chearavanont, chairman of Charoen Pokphand Group. Generally referred to as CP, the firm began as a seed shop in Bangkok’s Chinatown district in the 1920s and grew into Thailand’s largest producer of chickens and shrimp, along with other agricultural products. It is now a regional conglomerate.

Forbes magazine ranks the family as the richest in Thailand and the fourth-richest in Asia. CP also owns True Corp., a communications company that provides internet, mobile phone networks, and cable television in Thailand.

However, the 56-year-old Chatchaval stressed that he was buying Fortune in a personal capacity and that the magazine should not be considered part of CP Group. The purchase marks the first global media brand to come under Thai ownership and is the first foray into publishing by any member of his family.

“The demand for high-quality business information is growing, and with further committed investment in technology and brilliant journalism, we believe the outlook for further profitable growth is excellent both for the publication and the events business,” Chatchaval said.

The business side is where Chatchaval said he would make his mark, assuring that he would take a hands-off approach to editorial content and leave that to the journalism professionals.

The new owner earned a business administration degree from the University of Southern California, has risen in the family’s expanding business and has a seat on the board of True Corp., where he helps run the group’s media and technology business.

“I am pleased that we have found an owner for Fortune who believes in our mission, values our editorial independence, wants to invest in our journalism, and thinks Fortune can be the leading brand providing business insight and information around the world,” Alan Murray, president of Fortune said in a statement. “Watch this space: We will be doing big things in the future.”

Fortune was one of the most widely read and influential magazines of the Time Inc. publishing empire. American publisher Meredith Corp. bought Time Inc. in January but said it would sell four magazines – Time, Fortune, Sports Illustrated, and Money – because it wasn’t geared to publishing hard news.