Detroit’s Rockbridge Acquires Robb Report, Plans Digital Expansion

In most people’s minds, the words “luxury” and “Detroit” don’t immediately go together, but that could change soon: Rockbridge Growth Equity, a private equity firm founded by Dan Gilbert, has acquired Robb Report, arguably the world’s best-known lifestyle magazine dedicated to people for whom money is no object.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Rockbridge managing partner Brian Hermelin says his firm was looking for an opportunity to invest in a well-known media brand. Though Robb Report publishes 14 editions internationally, it’s primarily a print product. Plans are underway for Robb Report to open a new downtown Detroit office to support its expanding technology, digital media, and sales initiatives.

“With Rockbridge’s expertise, we’ll be digital soon,” Robb Report CEO Bill Curtis says. “Although they contacted us, they did so at a good time where we were ready to grow. It’s a good day for Robb Report.”

Curtis insists the magazine doesn’t simply target rich people, but rather appeals to “connoisseurs.” “It’s just that they don’t have to ask how much it costs as the first question. When they drink wine, they see it more as art in a glass,” he says. “It’s an interesting and powerful audience worldwide.”

An interesting and powerful audience worldwide, but probably not concentrated in Detroit—a city with high levels of poverty and unemployment that itself just emerged from bankruptcy. That doesn’t seem to faze Curtis at all, who sounds optimistic about the Motor City’s future.

“It’s an exciting place for us to open a tech office,” he says. “Under Dan’s tutelage, Detroit is becoming an exciting place for up-and-coming people. There’s a whole world of new personnel we can bring into the fold.”

Hermelin agrees, noting that with thousands of technology professionals in the metro Detroit area, Gilbert’s companies have no problem operating globally from Detroit.

Robb Report, which is based in Malibu, CA and currently employs 110 people, will soon start hiring Detroit staff. Hermelin says there will be jobs available in social media management, digital sales, and tech support as Rockbridge and Robb Report grow the magazine’s footprint to 30 editions worldwide.

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