Respected Chicago businessman Joe Mansueto has acquired a controlling interest in Time Out Chicago, the five-year-old weekly entertainment listings guide that is still seeking to realize its full potential.
When TOC debuted, Mansueto, the founder and CEO of investment research firm Morningstar, had a 50 percent stake in the weekly publication. But many of the business decisions regarding the magazine were made out of New York by members of the management team running Time Out New York. The editorial formula for both the Chicago and New York publications is similar to that of the original London magazine, which has long been a popular read and resource for both residents of the English capital and tourists visiting there. But now that he has upped his stake in the Time Out Chicago, Mansueto will have the primary say in how the magazine is managed and edited.
Sources familiar with its original business plan said TOC hoped to have a paid circulation of around 100,000 within five years, but the current circulation is believed to be closer to 40,000. Some observers maintain a key to making TOC a viable property long-term is its Web operations. Initially, the magazine's online offerings were only available to subscribers, but they now are more readily accessible by all visitors.
Though almost all general interest consumer magazines have struggled mightily in recent years to hold on to their circulation and operate in the black, Mansueto apparently remains convinced there is a future for magazines. And he has the money to sink into TOC for as long as he wishes. "Joe has very deep pockets," said one source familiar with the TOC backer. Several years ago Mansueto acquired Fast Company and turned that into a good, almost breezy read. He also owns another biz-oriented magazine called Inc.