Sunset Magazine Switches Hands from TIME to Private Investor

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Sunset Headquarters in Oakland’s Jack London Square (Courtesy of Sunset)

Sunset magazine, the West Coast-centered lifestyle publication and forebear to the current deluge of food and lifestyle media, is changing ownership amid its parent company Time Inc.’s own acquisition.

Time Inc. announced on Thursday that Sunset, which is based out of Oakland’s Jack London Square, is switching hands to Regent, a private equity firm out of Beverly Hills.

With this shift to new management — its fourth in over 120 years — about five staff members will be laid off as the publication pivots its focus on events and digital media.

“As a native Californian, I am honored to take the mantle as the fourth owner of this iconic and beloved institution," Michael Reinstein, Regent’s chairman, said in a statement. "For almost 120 years Sunset has been the definitive, pioneering voice of the promise, hope, values and innovative spirit of the West."

This acquisition comes days after Time Inc. was purchased by Meredith Corp., the Midwest media group that counts among its properties Better Homes & Gardens. Meredith Corp. made the nearly $3 billion deal in part with equity funneled in by Koch Industries, the corporation largely owned by Charles and David Koch.


Still, Time has been planning the sale of Sunset since July as part of its restructuring plan.

A publication conceived in 1898 to inspire Southern Pacific train passengers to move westward, Sunset sowed its seeds in the Bay Area and has kept its roots despite a media landscape experiencing growing pains. It has served as an vehicle for weighty fiction and reporting by the likes of Sinclair Lewis, Jack London and Herbert Hoover, but its lasting impression as a magazine for reliable food, home and gardening writing holds today.

It called San Francisco home for its first 50 years of publication. It weathered the 1906 fire — which burned its main offices — as well as two sales during this era: one to Sunset employees in 1914 and one to ad exec-turned-publisher Lawrence Lane fifteen years later.

During World War II, Sunset editors and Lane's children Bill and Mel Lane pushed for Californians to plant their own victory gardens by successfully raising their own one-acre victory garden in Berkeley.

Sunset relocated to its famed Menlo Park headquarters in 1951, a seven-acre behemoth designed by Cliff May once deemed “the laboratory of Western living.” With it, the magazine’s culinary and horticultural experiments could be housed in the same roof as its in-house writing staff.

The publication has adapted to the changing digital landscape with varying degrees of success. Sunset legitimized food blogging with its forays into locavore cuisine through its One-Block Diet experiments. Its definitive cookbooks and garden books remain evergreen staples. Its Idea Houses have installed forward-thinking architecture in locales like the Berkeley Hills. (The 2016 Idea House is now on sale.)

Sunset sold their Menlo Park headquarters in 2014 and moved to a smaller space in Oakland after the appointment of its current editor-in-chief, Irene Edwards. Despite mixed reception from readers, the move symbolized the ongoing changes affecting the publication.

“I can’t imagine a better city for the modern Sunset. This is its audience,” Edwards told KQED in 2014.

For what it’s worth, the new ownership does not signal that Sunset will relocate again. Its Oakland offices, and Edwards, will remain in place.