Chris Hughes's $20 Million Couldn't Save The New Republic

Chris Hughes

Less than four years after out business and tech mogul Chris Hughes purchased The New Republic, the 32-year-old Facebook cofounder has put the venerable political publication up for sale. 

Hughes posted a copy of the letter he sent informing New Republic employees of the changes this morning in a blog post on Medium titled "The New Republic's Next Chapter." 

That letter begins:

"I have some difficult news today: I have decided to put The New Republic up for sale. I bought this company nearly four years ago to ensure its survival and give it the financial runway to experiment with new business models in a time of immense change in media. After investing a great deal of time, energy, and over $20 million, I have come to the conclusion that it is time for new leadership and vision at The New Republic.

In December 2014, Hughes oversaw substantial changes to the publishing structure of the century-old political magazine, cutting the annual number of issues in half, moving the magazine's headquarters from Washington, D.C., to New York City, and restructuring the outlet to be a "vertically integrated media company." 

Those changes prompted the resignations of several top-level editors, including executive editor Frank Foer and literary editor Leon Wieseltier, along with as many as 30 other staffers and contributors, according to the Neiman Lab at Harvard University's Neiman Foundation

Hughes himself acknowledged that he did not have the "silver bullet" required to easily revitalize the publication that had long struggled to carry its old-school, long-form journalism ethos into the modern era of digital media. 

"I will be the first to admit that when I took on this challenge nearly four years ago, I underestimated the difficulty of transitioning an old and traditional institution into a digital media company in today’s quickly evolving climate," Hughes wrote in his letter. "When I bought The New Republic, it was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, and I believed that an institution as old and important as it should survive and evolve in an era where its values were still relevant and needed."

Hughes and his husband, Sean Eldridge, appeared on the cover of The Advocate in 2011, representing that year's batch of "40 Under 40" honorees. 

Reaction within journalism and political circles to Hughes's announcement on Monday was swift, with Vox founder Ezra Klein asking why Hughes didn't post the announcement on his publication's site. 

Mashable offered several pointed tweets that squarely placed the latest endeavor's failure on Hughes's shoulders:

Dan Kennedy, an associate professor of journalism at Northeastern University, offered several pointed critiques of The New Republic's trajectory under Hughes on his Twitter account:

Robinson Meyer, a tech and science writer for The Atlantic, posited that Hughes hadn't given the storied publication enough time to become profitable in the wake of the 2014 reboot. 

Fellow Atlantic writer James Fallows, a national correspondent, turned to historic literature to depict his understanding of what happened when Hughes took over the competitor's publication:

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