South by Southwest sells ownership stake in company to Rolling Stone owner Penske Media Corp.

Photo of two performers on an outdoor SXSW stage
South by Southwest Conference & Festivals was last held in person in 2019, prior to the coronavirus pandemic. (Courtesy David Brendan Hall/South by Southwest Conference & Festivals)

South by Southwest Conference & Festivals was last held in person in 2019, prior to the coronavirus pandemic. (Courtesy David Brendan Hall/South by Southwest Conference & Festivals)

The South by Southwest Conference & Festivals is under new ownership. SXSW has sold a 50% stake in South by Southwest LLC to Penske Media Corp., the digital media and publishing company that also owns Rolling Stone and Variety. Penske will now hold the single largest stake in SXSW.

“It’s been an incredibly tough period for small businesses, SXSW included. When Jay Penske came to us with interest in becoming a partner, it was a true lifeline for us," said Roland Swenson, SXSW CEO and co-founder, in a statement.


The sale follows the cancellation of SXSW in 2020 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, a move which came at a steep cost to both SXSW and Austin businesses: according to an economic analysis, the 2019 conference and festivals had an estimated $355.9 million impact on the local economy. SXSW also had to lay off around a third of its full-time staff following the cancellation.

SXSW held virtual events this year and has announced plans for an in-person conference and festivals in 2022, to be held March 11-20.

"While SXSW’s core business will retain its focus on the March event in Austin, this strategic investment also brings the exploration of new capabilities in providing quality programming to our diverse community of highly engaged creative professionals," Swenson said.
By Olivia Aldridge

Multi-Platform Journalist

Olivia hosts and produces Community Impact Newspaper's podcasts, The Austin Breakdown, The Houston Breakdown and The DFW Breakdown. She launched the podcasts after nearly three years as a reporter for the newspaper, covering public health, business, development and Travis County government for the Central Austin edition. Olivia worked as a reporter and producer for South Carolina Public Radio before moving to Texas.