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Hearst and Bring a Trailer: Perfect Together?

“I’m very excited to continue to lead Bring a Trailer as we partner with Hearst Autos. We can now keep all of the best parts of the business intact while enhancing our capabilities to address our huge product demand and user traffic growth.”

Randy Nonnenberg, BaT Co-Founder and CEO

“Bring a Trailer has set the bar for building a community around a passion point. What Randy and (co-founder) Gentry (Underwood) have developed is truly special, and what they deliver to their audience is so much more than transactional. They’ve built a family, developed trust and have become an invaluable part of the automotive landscape.”

—Matt Sanchez, CEO Hearst Autos

It is not surprising that Bring a Trailer has sold. What is surprising is the buyer—Hearst. The venerable media company owns magazines like Cosmopolitan and Esquire, newspapers like the San Francisco Chronicle, TV channels like A&E Networks, and has a sizable ownership stake in ESPN. This deal may be less about Hearst entering the collector car market and more about the unique content BaT generates. Buying and selling cars online generates endless user-generated content—some of which is quite interesting and engaging. Unlike other content websites, BaT has a real business model underpinning it—the site generates substantial revenue from its auction transactions. It will be interesting to see where Hearst takes BaT in the future. Hopefully, this takeover will not end like GM’s acquisition of Saab. We will provide a much deeper analysis of this transaction in the upcoming issue of Sports Car Market. (Photo of Hearst Tower courtesy of Wikipedia)

Press Release:


NEW YORK, NY (June 25, 2020)—Hearst Autos today announced the acquisition of Bring a Trailer, a digital auction platform and auto enthusiast community. The announcement was made by Hearst Magazines President Troy Young, Hearst Autos CEO Matt Sanchez, and Bring a Trailer Co-founders Randy Nonnenberg and Gentry Underwood.

Bring a Trailer curates classic, collector, and enthusiast vehicles submitted by its audience for auction. This knowledgeable community of more than 415,000 users and more than 175,000 registered bidders vets each vehicle, giving confidence to potential buyers. The name of the platform is a reference to the familiar shorthand in classified listings urging buyers to “Bring a trailer!” for non-operational projects, race cars and Concours show vehicles.

“Bring a Trailer represents another step in the evolution of Hearst Magazines, one that connects passion points to content and now, marketplaces,” Young said. “At its core, Bring a Trailer is about curation, which is what our brands have always been about.”

“Bring a Trailer has set the bar for building a community around a passion point,” Sanchez said. “What Randy and Gentry have developed is truly special, and what they deliver to their audiences so much more than transactional. They’ve built a family, developed trust, and have become an invaluable part of the automotive landscape. We’re excited to welcome Bring a Trailer into Hearst Autos and develop the resources, tools, technology and partnerships to support and grow this iconic business.”

Bring a Trailer will continue to run as an independent business, led by Nonnenberg and his team. No personnel changes are planned, and operations will continue from the existing San Francisco, CA, headquarters.

“I’m very excited to continue to lead Bring a Trailer as we partner with Hearst Autos,” Nonnenberg said. “We can now keep all of the best parts of the business intact while enhancing our capabilities to address our huge product demand and user traffic growth. I had Road & Track magazine pages hung on my walls as a kid and they helped shape my automotive passion. This is really an amazing next step in the Bring a Trailer journey, and it will allow us to solidify our tech foundation so that we can add new features and better serve the automotive enthusiast community.”

Hearst Autos will expand and support Bring a Trailer’s offerings, community and transactions through investments in robust technology and new products and features. In addition, Hearst Autos’ iconic brands Car and Driver, Road & Track and Autoweek will add collaborative benefits to Bring a Trailer, including editorial content and insights as well as business and sponsorship opportunities.

About Hearst Autos

As the leading automotive media organization in the world, Hearst Autos connects car buyers, owners and enthusiasts to the information they need, the experiences they crave, and the stories they love—while connecting automotive marketers to this audience of unrivaled breadth and diversity. Hearst Autos’ in-house brands include Car and Driver, Road & Track, R&T, Canadian Blackbook, Autoweek, and R&T Crew, a subscription box for car-loving kids.

About Hearst Magazines

Hearst Magazines’ portfolio of more than 25 powerful brands in the U.S. inspire and entertain audiences across all media platforms. Hearst Magazines’ print and digital assets reach nearly 165 million readers and site visitors each month—70% of all millennials and 69% of all Gen Z, age 18+ (source: comScore/MRI 1-20/S19). The company publishes over 300 editions and 245 websites around the world and attracts more readers of monthly magazines than any other publisher.

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10 Responses to Hearst and Bring a Trailer: Perfect Together?

  1. Jim Motavalli July 6, 2020 at 2:07 pm #

    Let’s be optimistic. BaT was working–it certainly worked for me, selling three cars–so if they’re smart they’ll leave it alone.

  2. Middleton O’Malley-Keyes July 6, 2020 at 6:42 am #

    My heart is broken by the sale of BaT. Sure, all the right words are spoken but the fact remains that two key words are eventually trashed; Charm and Passion. I’m an old school R&T reader, that was my first experience with what the acquisition by a large corporation will do to a business as they adjust and tweet to maximize ROI.

  3. mark June 29, 2020 at 6:13 pm #

    I can see why a print focused company is buying a digital footprint. That is the future and actually the present. It will be interesting to see what “improvements” they make, if any. Glad to see the owners have cashed out, hopefully for big bucks!

  4. arthur einstein June 29, 2020 at 12:42 pm #

    What Hearst has acquired is a mailing list, and an audience of voyeurs who return to the site regularly for dream shopping and daily ‘action’. Barrett Jackson is a perfect example of auctions as entertainment. There’s real money in the transaction fees. But there’s a ton more in the concessions that surround the event. Expect to see a magazine, video, merchandise and stuff you and I haven’t thought about yet. It will be mega if Hearst doesn’t screw it up by ‘knowing better’.

  5. peter r June 29, 2020 at 9:39 am #

    Takeovers are good for owners who usually get huge payouts but poor for users who then get to pay more for hopefully at least the same level of serice as buyers look to raise prices in order to pay for their overpriced acquisition. Congratulations on the sale. I’m sure it was at a very high price or else why sell. Too bad for the users like me who inevitably get to pay the price.

  6. Bob Kahrl June 29, 2020 at 9:22 am #

    As Road & Track continues to skinny down its content, and having its California offices closed, I wonder whether BaT will be confronted with the same sort of skinnying down from Hearst. Of course, R&T is not selling much ad space these days, so maybe they have an excuse. But Sports Car Market seems to be getting thicker, and so is Hemmings, and the new Magneto magazine is plenty hefty. Maybe R&T just needs more investment and a little market research into what readers really want from it. BaT certainly is in a sweet spot of interest.

  7. Somer June 29, 2020 at 7:50 am #

    They have been approached for years by investors. They have a great model that several have tried to emulate in the last year. While the Principals are still in charge; typically most “takeovers” include management continuing on for 5 ? years or so. Only time will tell. They created a great model and community. Can a big corporation keep a small community feel? Time will tell.

    • Philip June 29, 2020 at 12:12 pm #

      Hey Somer,

      I guess what I would like to know when did one of these type “buyouts”…”takeovers” improve the existing product/company/service? You may know of an example but I don’t and I think 99% of the time…service will cost more and it will be a less efficient site. And, I really don’t have any skin in the game…so its not going to cause a problem for me. But I have several buddies who used that site to buy 6 Porsches between them. I’ll see what they think. Thanks.


  8. Philip too! June 29, 2020 at 7:43 am #

    HI Philip,
    I don’t really ever like to see “big business” take over a great entrepreneurial endeavor. It changes the whole dynamic in my opinion. It will now cost more to use and be less efficient IMO. But thanks for posting. I enjoy your site.

    • arthur einstein June 29, 2020 at 12:45 pm #

      Name one? How about YouTube?