Today, in unexpected news, The Atlantic announced that the Emerson Collective has taken a controlling stake in the magazine. That may sound like humdrum media news until you realize that the president of the Emerson Collective is none other than Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple founder Steve Jobs. So now, one of America’s oldest media properties could gain some Apple DNA—sort of.
That Apple connection may be a bit of a stretch, for now. It would be safe to say that the Emerson Collective has developed a tradition of supporting progressive causes, like education and immigration reform, since its founding in 2004. Powell Jobs and her team will take control from David Bradley, a longtime DC power broker who bought the magazine in 1999. Bradley told The Atlantic staff that his team made a list of over 600 potential investors, but Powell Jobs was the only one they approached. As The Atlantic reports in its coverage of the news, there was always a deeper connection between Powell Jobs and the magazine:
In a statement, Powell Jobs noted that Ralph Waldo Emerson, a co-founder of The Atlantic, inspired the name and the mission of her organization. She praised The Atlantic for the breadth and scope of its purpose: to “bring about equality for all people; to illuminate and defend the American idea; to celebrate American culture and literature; and to cover our marvelous, and sometimes messy, democratic experiment.”
The story goes on to explain that the Emerson Collective’s controlling stake over The Atlantic does not include Atlantic Media properties like Quartz and National Journal. Eventually, Powell Jobs could take full control of the magazine and decide to spin off those properties altogether.
And so, another Silicon Valley scion joins the Washington media elite. Back in 2013, we saw Amazon founder Jeff Bezos—the erstwhile richest man in the world—buy The Washington Post. A year earlier, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes bought The New Republic, although that didn’t last long. Hughes sold The New Republic in 2016.
It’s unclear what the fate of The Atlantic will look like. The company says it’s profitable and growing. An influx of capital and the cachet that Powell Jobs, her Emerson Collective team, and that subtle nod to Apple provide could ultimately help The Atlantic reach new heights at a time when many media companies are heading in the opposite direction.
About that Apple connection, though. It’s unclear if Powell Jobs’s new role at The Atlantic will affect the magazine’s relationship with the computerphone company. We’ve reached out to The Atlantic for more information and will update this post if we hear back.
Full disclosure: I worked as a staff writer for The Atlantic’s news website, The Atlantic Wire, from 2011 to 2013.
Editor’s note: The original headline of this post only identified Laurene Powell Jobs as the widow of her late husband Steve. She is a person in her own right with an accomplished history of philanthropy. We regret the error.