Singapore / AFP
A Singapore firm headed by a scion of one of Asia’s richest families has bought a 49 percent stake in Rolling Stone, with plans to diversify the iconic magazine into new business including live events and merchandising. BandLab Technologies, a music and technology start-up headed by 28-year-old Kuok Meng Ru, bought the stake for an undisclosed sum and will partner current owners Wenner Media, the firms said in a statement.
Rolling Stone International, a new subsidiary to be headed by Kuok, will organise events including concerts and develop merchandising and hospitality services, Bloomberg News reported.
Rolling Stone International will “build on the brand’s worldwide appeal and recognition”, the firms said in a statement.
Kuok is the son of Singapore palm oil magnate Kuok Khoon Hong — founder of Wilmar International, the industry’s biggest trader — and grand-nephew of Robert Kuok, Malaysia’s richest man who is worth more than $11 billion
according to Forbes.
“Rolling Stone’s impact on culture over the years has been immeasurable and I’m truly honoured to be joining the team on the next phase of its journey,” said Kuok, a Cambridge graduate.
BandLab Technologies’ portfolio already includes a cloud platform and social network for musicians, a music-making website, an instrument accessory design studio and Southeast Asia’s largest distributor of audio equipment.
“We are thrilled to have found an extraordinary partner for Rolling Stone as we focus on the brand’s global expansion,” Gus Wenner, Wenner Media’s head of digital, said in a statement. “We see an enormous opportunity to diversify the brand into new markets and new areas of business.”
Music and pop culture magazine Rolling Stone was founded in 1967 by Gus Wenner’s father, Jann S. Wenner, and Ralph Gleason with a $7,500 loan from friends and family. According to Singapore daily The Straits Times, the deal has been in the works for some 15 months after Kuok was
introduced to Gus Wenner.
Bloomberg News reported that the two twentysomethings struck up a friendship over their interest in music and digital media, as the Wenners were looking for a way to expand their reach in Asia, home to more than half the world’s population.
“It became much bigger than what we began with,” Kuok told Bloomberg News.
“It was really more of a meeting of minds and visions and long-term partnership that made it possible.” In addition to its focus on pop music, Rolling Stone forged its reputation by featuring some of the best writers in the US — such as Tom Wolfe and Hunter S. Thompson — and by turning its covers into showcases for top photographers and controversial subjects.
New York-based Wenner Media owns and publishes 12 international editions of the magazine, as well as Us Weekly and Men’s Journal.