Austin Russell, the 28-year-old founder, and CEO of Luminar, has made headlines again after announcing his purchase of an 82% stake in Forbes Global Media Holdings. The deal, valued at nearly $800 million, includes the remaining portion of the company previously owned by its namesake family, as well as shares held by Integrated Whale Media, the Hong Kong-based investor group that bought a 95% stake in Forbes in 2014. The acquisition comes after Forbes called off its merger with a special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC) last year when the market soured and investors lost their appetite for SPACs.
While Luminar has had better timing, going public via a SPAC merger in 2021 when retail investors were still clamoring for shares in mobility tech companies, its market cap has since dropped from $3.4 billion to roughly $2 billion. Despite this, Russell remains optimistic and has no regrets about the SPAC. He believes that the alternative would have been to potentially run out of money, as private market investors began to snap shut their checkbooks.
Some retail investors might not be happy about Luminar’s performance, and others might find it concerning that Russell, who Forbes describes as the world’s youngest self-made billionaire, will soon be directing some of his attention elsewhere. However, Russell is focused on growing Forbes and emphasizing philanthropy within the business. He has no plans to get involved in the company’s day-to-day operations, but he is looking to alter how he invests his time after spending his entire career focused on Luminar.
The acquisition of Forbes by Austin Russell is a significant development in the media industry, with many shareholders and Luminar employees finding the move confusing. Nevertheless, Russell’s purchase of Forbes is a testament to his business acumen and his desire to expand his portfolio beyond Luminar.