AP Exclusive: 'This Old House' brand gets new owner
Apr. 01, 2016
"This Old House" is getting new ownership.
The venerable home-improvement brand — whose flagship TV series has been on the air since 1979 — has been acquired from Time Inc. by former Time Inc. exec Eric Thorkilsen in partnership with private equity firm TZP Group, the new company announced Friday.
This Old House Ventures LLC will be anchored by "This Old House" and its TV sibling, "Ask This Old House," as well as This Old House magazine, online content, a line of books and other branded products.
Thorkilsen was named CEO of the new company. Susan Wyland, most recently an editorial consultant running her own firm, joins This Old House magazine as its new editor-in-chief.
As a fully integrated, multimedia business, This Old House Ventures LLC will manage all of its own core business functions, including original television production, digital content and operations, advertising sales, magazine editorial, brand licensing and marketing from new headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut, beginning this summer, the company said.
Time Inc., which launched the magazine in 1995 and later bought the TV show from Boston public TV station WGBH, will continue to provide back-office operations including magazine production and subscription services.
No financial terms for the purchase were disclosed.
The deal returns Thorkilsen to the helm of a TV show he says he never missed as a viewer, and a brand he nurtured during his three decades at Time Inc.
"Long before TiVos, as a homeowner I used to plan my weekends around when 'This Old House' was on the air," he told The Associated Press. "I had to see the newest episode.
"Some years later, I had the opportunity to get involved professionally with this brand that I loved so much. We licensed the commercial rights to start extending the brand beyond the television program." Under his stewardship in 2002 Time Inc. acquired the original series and soon thereafter created its spinoff.
The potential seemed obvious to Thorkilsen, who at Time Inc. had orchestrated the Martha Stewart Living media juggernaut. This was then a new business model — a multi-platform paradigm for extending a brand's reach across print, television, digital and licensing.
But long after leaving Time Inc. in 2005, and most recently while running Lifestyle Media Partners, a brand-development company, he still saw untapped opportunities for This Old House. Eventually a deal was struck with Time Inc., which, under its chairman, Joe Ripp, was busy reinventing itself after being spun off as a publicly traded company in 2014.
"I thank the This Old House team for their hard work and commitment to Time Inc. over many years. They've got a great new home," Ripp said.
"As an independent entity with the backing of our private equity partners we hope to build it into an even stronger, bigger business," said Thorkilsen, adding, "Our No. 1 goal is to not screw it up. We're looking to acquire this brand for what it is, not for how we can change it. We think we can add to it, but the core of it is working very well."
Scott Omelianuk, top editor of This Old House magazine the past dozen years, has decided not to make the transition and is pursuing a new opportunity in the TV realm. But the remainder of the current staff of This Old House Ventures will be invited to join the new company.
That, of course, includes the on-air stars.
Kevin O'Connor, since 2003 host of "This Old House" and later "Ask This Old House," said, "Having Eric back in the family again is, and pardon the pun, like coming home for me. When I first joined the series, Eric was steering the ship (and) I feel fortunate that we will have the opportunity to work together to make 'This Old House' even stronger than it is today."
O'Connor will remain along with master carpenter Norm Abram, general contractor Tom Silva, plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey, and landscape contractor Roger Cook. Both series (which each landed 2016 Daytime Emmy nominations) are currently in production and will premiere for a 37th season and 15th season, respectively, on PBS stations this fall. WGBH Boston will continue to distribute the programs.
"I want to preserve the team and the culture," said Thorkilsen, "and surround them with the kind of support and investment that allows the company to grow. But from the audience's point of view, I think this transition is going to be totally seamless."
EDITOR'S NOTE — Frazier Moore is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. He can be reached at email@example.com and at http://www.twitter.com/tvfrazier. Past stories are available at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/frazier-moore