South by Southwest (SXSW) has sold a 50-per-cent stake of the festival to Penske Media Corp., which owns Billboard, among other magazines, after suffering a huge financial blow due to 2020’s last-minute cancellation.

The Wall Street Journal reports that under the deal, SXSW can maintain its current leadership team and the core business of the festival will remain unchanged.

The team is currently planning for the next event, which will take place March 11 – 20, 2022.

The 2020 edition of the technology and entertainment festival in Austin, Texas was one of many festivals to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 live events shutdown, and was called off on March 6 for the first time in its 34-year history. In 2019, SXSW welcomed nearly 74,000 punters with over 19,000 coming from outside the US.

The financial fallout after the last-minute cancellation has been significant for the festival, with organisers questioning the future of the event after it said their insurance policies would not cover cancellation due the pandemic. At the time, SXSW said it believed the cancellation would cost them millions.

Jay Penske, chairman and chief executive of Penske Media, said, according ArtNews, which is owned by Penske: “We are grateful and proud to become enduring partners with SXSW, and collaborate with its exceptional team. Since 1987, SXSW has been the world’s premier festival centered at the convergence of tech, media, film, and music.

“Today SXSW continues to be one of the most recognised brands for empowering creative talent and bringing together the brightest creators of our time. As part of this significant investment, we plan to build upon SXSW’s incredible foundation while extending the platform further digitally and assisting Roland and his incredible team to bring their vision to even greater heights.”

The partnership will allow SXSW to pursue new capabilities and programming, as well as providing potential for new events and business models.

Roland Swenson, chief executive and co-founder of SXSW, said: “It has been an incredibly tough period for small businesses, SXSW included. When Jay Penske approached us with an interest in becoming a partner, it was a true lifeline for us. Both of our companies share a passion for producing high quality content that helps shape modern culture, so this feels like a natural alliance.”

Penske also owns Art in America, Robb Report, Rolling Stone, Women’s Wear Daily, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, and Vibe.

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