Joanna Coles — who once ran Marie Claire and its racier sister Cosmopolitan — is reinventing herself following her departure from Hearst.
In addition to Freeform show “The Bold Type,” loosely based on her days at Cosmo, Coles has joined the male-dominated world of buying companies using special-acquisition purpose vehicles, or SPACs.
She made an unlikely teaming with the NHL’s New York Islanders majority owner Jon Ledecky in September to raise money through their Northern Star Acquisition Corp. SPAC. Last week they unveiled that the SPAC has agreed to acquire Bark Box, a subscription service for dog lovers, in a deal that values the startup at $1.6 billion.
And the pair are already onto the next one.
“Jon and I are looking to do another SPAC,” she told Media Ink of the financial instruments commonly known as blank-check companies. SPACS are publicly traded shell companies that raise money to buy or merge with a real business that then takes over their ticker symbols, a sort of reverse IPO.
The British-born Coles rose through the ranks at Hearst to become the magazine division’s ‘ first ever chief content officer before she left in 2018, shortly after the company picked Troy Young over her as the new division president.
She is chairman and CEO of Northern Star. Ledecky is the president and COO.
“He’s the SPAC mechanic,” said Coles. “I was very much interested in doing something in the data driven and e-commerce space.” Ledecky’s other SPAC’s include Endeavor Acquisition Corp., which merged with American Apparel, and Pivotal II, which merged with XL Hybrids in the electric car business, according to SEC documents.
“As far as I know, I’m only the second woman to do an SPAC,” said Coles.
Despite her long career in journalism, she didn’t pursue media targets with the money raised in her SPAC.
“I was less inclined to do something in media,” said Coles, who is also on the board of SNAP parent of Snapchat and recently joined the board of audio hardware and software maker Sonos. “Our purchasing habits have changed dramatically under COVID. It’s accelerated the process by ten years,” she explaining why she was instead attracted to the e-commerce which sends out one million packages a month to its pet loving subscribers.
She said more than half the households in the United States own a dog thanks to COVID, a purchase that have consequences for years to come. “People aren’t giving their dogs away away after COVID,” she said.
She will join the board member of BarkBox once the deal is finalized in the first quarter of 2021 and begins publicly trading under the symbol BARK. Current CEO Bark Marish Joneja, a former Amazon executive who joined earlier this year, stays in place as the CEO as will BarkBox co-founders, Matt Meeker, Henrik Werdelin and Carlye Strife.
“Everyone is staying around,” said Coles.
Beside “The Bold Type,” Coles is an executive producer of dramatic series “Valley of the Gods,” created by Peter Nowalk of “How to Get Away with Murder.” The show, greenlighted by ABC for a September 2021 debut, is described by ABC is “the most powerful people in Silicon Valley and the hungry, underestimated outsiders trying to claw their way in.”