Swiss media powerhouse Ringier has sold off City Weekend to a group of investors led by Bromme Hampton Cole, a self-described “healthcare iconoclast”, “dissident entrepreneur”, “media maker”, author, as well as a proud Freemason who apparently has big plans for China’s expat media
On November 23rd, Cole announced on Facebook that he had bought City Weekend and three of its affiliated publications, Shanghai Family, Parents&Kids, and Shanghai Expat, for an undisclosed amount. In the post, Cole described himself as “exhilarated” following “months of negotiations” with the outlets’ former owner.
In the comments underneath his Facebook post, Cole added that the brands are in for a “good shaking up” and that a “new era” was soon to dawn in Shanghai.
The following day in another Facebook post, Cole wrote, “Expat lifestyle media needs a complete makeover in China.” Going forward, he said his new acquisitions would offer “bilingual content which appeals to young, aspirational locals educated abroad” and declared simply, “No more print!”
According to Time Out Shanghai, City Weekend and its assets were more specifically acquired by an advertising company called “Ocean Strategies” which is backed by investor group led by Cole.
Shanghaiist has not been able to find any advertising firm called Ocean Strategies (though there does at least appear to be an “ocean management consulting firm” that goes by that name). It seems likely that the company was newly founded for this deal.
Bromme Hampton Cole has quite the ecclectic resume. Born in New Orleans and spending many years in Manhattan, he has also lived in France, Taiwan, Colombia, and China. His LinkedIn profile shows an array of experience in banking, real estate investment, and healthcare/gerontology investment.
He has written two books, both about elderly people in China: Dragon with a Cane: Profiles in Ageing: China’s Forgotten Generation and Enter the Ageing Dragon..: Musings on the nascent senior living industry in China. On his Amazon author profile, he is described as an “incurable adventurer” and Freemason.
City Weekend celebrated its 20th anniversary this year. However, after two decades of publishing print magazines in China, the outlet has fallen on hard times of late. In early 2016, its Shenzhen and Guangzhou branches were both shut down after losing a bruising battle with its archrival That’s magazines. Later that year, its Beijing office looked to be headed towards the same fate, but was bought at the last second by the Liwayway Group, a Filipino snack maker known for the Oishi brand which is wildly popular in China.
To celebrate that event, City Weekend published a statement which boasted: “Next year we will celebrate our 20th anniversary, and this year we celebrate a deal that ensures both magazines endure for decades to come.”
However, at the moment it doesn’t quite look like the Beijing office will be lasting decades with Cole commenting on Facebook that he plans to close the branch for at least a year, calling it a “total money loser.”
If Cole does follow through with all of his apparent plans, then that will mean yet more expat print publications going the way of the dinosaurs as more and more people go online and to social media to read news and find out what’s happening around town.
Even before the buy-off, City Weekend had cut itself down from a biweekly to a monthly magazine this year. In a similar move, Time Out has reduced its titles in Beijing and Shanghai from monthlies to quarterlies.