Update: Elevation’s Roger McNamee has just responded, saying the reports are untrue: “Forbes absolutely denies this rumor, and has no knowledge of the source. Forbes Russia is also not for sale to the ONEXIM group.”

Several news reports in Russia are saying that ONEXIM Group, a large diversified Russian private investment firm, is in talks to acquire the U.S. news publication Forbes.

Yakov Sadchikov, founder of Quintura, provides an English translation of the news.

Forbes is privately owned and is quiet about its finances, so it’s difficult to tell what financial shape the publication is in. But if the reports are true, the acquisition would be the latest sign that large U.S. news publications are in pain. The markets have been surprised recently about the poor shape of iconic news brands like the Wall Street Journal (owned by Rupert Murdoch) and the New York Times — with some estimating negative net worth for the latter.

However, many U.S. media companies have complicated ownership structures, and it can be difficult to acquire them, as witnessed by the protracted talks News Corp’s Murdoch struggled through before acquiring Dow Jones, parent of the Wall Street Journal, last year.

The are other signs of consolidation too, with newspapers poaching each other’s advertisers, with the latest report saying that Murdoch has stepped up his targeting of the New York Times’ turf.

Forbes is partly owned by Elevation Partners, a U.S. private equity firm, which invested two years ago. Reports at the time suggested Elevation bought 40 percent of the company at a cost of $250 million to $300 million, implying that Forbes was valued at somewhere between $625 million and $750 million. Our bet is that it would be valued significantly lower than that these days. We’ve requested comment from Elevation Partners, but have yet to hear back.

ONEXIM Group has investments in mining, energy, real estate and other industries — with more than $25 billion in funds under management.

According to Sadchikov, ONEXIM recently financed the launch of Russia’s Snob magazine, which reportedly will be followed soon by Snob TV and multimedia portal Snob.ru. In September, ONEXIM Group acquired half of Renaissance Capital, a leading investment bank in the Russian, CIS and African markets, for $500 million. The bank advised the shareholders of Mail.ru on a sale of a 30 percent stake to media and internet group Naspers.

In Russia, Forbes magazine is published by Axel Springer Russia.

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