After months of talks, Vice Media sealed an agreement to acquire Refinery29, a bet by the two digital-centric media companies they can create a stronger union together to reach youth-skewing audiences.
The value of the pact, expected to close before the end of 2019, isn’t being disclosed. In the transaction, Vice is issuing mostly stock to Refinery29’s shareholders with a smaller cash component, according to a source familiar with the deal.
Brooklyn-based Vice has around 2,500 employees. Refinery29, headquartered in lower Manhattan, has under 400. Both companies in the past year have cut about 10% of their staffs, as they have faced the same challenges in hitting revenue and profitability targets that others in the digital-media space have.
The new company will be called Vice Media Group; Refinery29 will continue to operate as an independent brands. It’s not clear at this point how many layoffs will result from the combo. However, the companies said that together, they will increase their investment in premium content production across all platforms by 20% on a year-over-year basis.
“This is an expansive moment for independent media,” Nancy Dubuc, CEO of Vice Media Group, said in a statement. She signaled that the acquisition isn’t about making cutbacks: “We will not allow a rapidly consolidating media ecosystem to constrict young people’s choices or their ability to freely express themselves about the things they care about most. At Vice and Refinery29, the megaphone is theirs to use and the platforms are theirs to build with us.”
Refinery29 focuses on a young female audience with lifestyle and entertainment verticals, events and premium content. The hypothesis driving the deal: Vice will be able to take R29’s smaller business operations and integrate it into Vice Media’s larger and more global footprint.
Refinery29 co-CEOs and co-founders Philippe von Borries and Justin Stefano called the Vice pact a “transformational partnership” that will “allow our mission and business to flourish further.”
“We are proud to partner with Nancy and Vice Media Group,” the R29 execs said, “and we are confident that together we will be able to expand our vital role in shaping culture and positively impacting the world for young people everywhere.”
The management structure for the combined Vice-R29 has yet to be sorted out, although Vice said the Refinery29 business will report directly into Dubuc. Word of the talks between Vice and Refinery29 talks emerged this summer.
Founded in 2005, Refinery29 had raised $133 million in funding from investors including Turner (now part of AT&T’s WarnerMedia), Discovery, WPP, Hearst and Stripes Group.
Dubuc has headed Vice since May 2018 after running A+E Networks, replacing co-founder Shane Smith in the CEO role. Since then, she’s worked to clean up the bro culture at the company, which started life in 1994 as a punk-culture magazine in Montreal. The Refinery29 deal will be a test of whether she has the right strategy to bring Vice into a sustainable future.
Vice once was valued at more than $5 billion valuation — but that’s take a hit in the past year. Disney wrote off $510 million of the value of its effective 21% stake in Vice Media. Vice earlier this year recently closed $250 million in debt financing from a group of new investors including George Soros’ investment fund. Other Vice investors include TPG, WPP, Raine Group, and ex-Viacom CEO Tom Freston.
With Refinery29, Vice claims that it will expand its global audience reach to 350 million unique visitors monthly, a 17% increase. The new company will produce over 1,700 pieces of content daily. Under Vice, Refinery29 will continue to program across verticals including fashion, beauty, money and lifestyle, as well as produce live experiences such as 29Rooms and a slate of premium original film and TV projects including “Shatterbox” and the upcoming series “Pride” for FX.
According to Vice, Refinery29’s offices in Los Angeles, London, Toronto and Berlin are “complementary to” Vice Media’s offices in the same cities. R29 has the opportunity to expand into Vice’s 30 additional locations.
The companies see benefits in not only expanding online reach but also gaining synergies in combining their content production, events and affiliate and e-commerce businesses. In addition, Vice’s Virtue in-house ad agency — with operations in 21 countries — will be able scale Refinery29’s advertising business, according the companies.
The combined Vice-Refinery29 will have a workforce that is majority women; according to Vice, its current employee base is equally split between men and women.
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Uber’s third round of layoffs raises major red flags
Uber has reportedly terminated employment for another 350 workers in its third wave of layoffs, the company revealed on Monday. Uber Eats and Uber’s self-driving unit were hit the the hardest according to documents obtained by Tech Crunch.
CEO Dara Khosrowshahi sent an email to Uber workers to address what’s being described as “difficult but necessary changes.”
The company has parted ways with an estimated 400 workers in its marketing department since July and 435 engineering and product workers in September. Some workers have also been asked to relocate.
The ride-sharing giant admitted in August that it garnered $5 billion in losses in the second quarter of 2019, attributing the costs to one-time charges connected to Uber’s May stock offering. Excluding those charges, Uber’s ongoing burn rate has been around $1 billion in recent quarters. Third-quarter financial results are due out next month.
While the ongoing layoffs have raised concerns as to where the future of the company’s headed, UBER says those who were fired only make up about 1% of the company’s workforce.
Selfridges embraces Conscious Consumerism with Sustainable partnership –– Depop
Luxury fashion store, Selfridges announces the Depop Space Selfridges pop-up, as a new study1 reveals Gen Z’s purchasing decisions are increasingly based on sustainability concerns. This innovative fashion pop-up is one of several existing and forthcoming activities that reflect the store’s on-going commitment to reimagining what shopping and style might look like in response to the climate emergency.
As a retailer, Selfridges is continually seeking new ways to become more circular and help to drive radical transformation of the industry by collaborating with brands and partners whose activities challenge the way we experience and enjoy fashion.
The Depop focus for September is to ‘Recreate the New: Fashioned for the Planet’ – and focuses on sustainability, featuring sellers who advocate for reducing fashion’s global impact and reflect Selfridges’ prioritization of providing sustainable and ethical fashion choices for its shoppers.
The Depop Space Selfridges installation aims to reimagine the retail space in an industry where the environmental impact of fashion is increasingly at the forefront of customer’s minds.
During September, Depop sellers such as Sam Nowell and designer Patrick McDowell will host hands-on workshops for the public, teaching customers how to extend the life of pre-loved garments through reworking, tailoring and customization.
Selfridges’ new Shopper Study data, conducted by OnePoll, backs up the push from young consumers to shop ethically. Two-thirds (63%) of Gen Z shoppers said they were more concerned about climate change and sustainability issues than they were just one year ago. Concerns for the environment are influencing their shopping choices with over three-quarters (77%) of this age profile saying that when they are thinking about the products they buy their biggest environmental concern is that they want their choices to reduce waste.
Selfridges Head of Sustainability, Daniella Vega commented: “We are excited to be taking the lead in sustainable fashion by this first-of-its-kind collaboration with Depop in the UK. Selfridges takes seriously its responsibility to protect the environment and our Buying Better Inspiring Change initiative always looks for ways to push the boundaries in luxury retail – to challenge the norm. This new survey data supports our understanding of our youngest adult fashion shoppers, for whom there is no compromise when it comes to seeking out style that doesn’t harm the planet. We are committed to buying better and inspiring change so that our customers can do the same.”
Depop Space Selfridges will showcase different Depop sellers each week exhibiting a selection of key pieces from their Depop collections available for purchase only at Selfridges. An additional exclusive collection of pieces is available online on Selfridges.com. The retail space itself will act to physically reimagine the digital marketplace with a kinetic rail that visitors can control to view the range on offer
The Depop Space Selfridges follows Selfridges recent commitment and signing of the Fashion Pact, as unveiled at the recent G7 Summit, as well as the introduction of its latest cohort of Bright New Things designers.
Release provided by Selfridges.
Wayfair Workers protest Migrant Detention
Wayfair employees boycotted their corporate jobs on Wednesday to protest the furniture giant’s decision to sell beds to a migrant detention center located at the Southern border. The protest revolt has since then garnered national attention from outlets across the country and attended by dozens of supporters, holding signs reading “NO WAY” and “abolish ICE.”
“We’ve had many conversations with the leaders back and forth,” Wayfair employee Madeline Howard said to The Washington Post. “We really do want to reach some kind of agreement with them, but they’re just not hearing what we’re saying.”
According to Chris Allieri, the founder and principal of Mulberry & Astor, a public relations firm specializing in crisis management.
“At the end of the day, as a corporation, you have to look at your employees,” Allieri added to the outlet. “Their viewpoint matters, and I think we’re going to see it matter even more.”
“That used to be the way, right?” he continued. “Now companies need to look at their audiences. And I think, for too long, the audience of the employees — it was just not considered.”
“[Wayfair] isn’t the first company that’s done business with the federal government, or ICE or Immigration and Naturalization Services,” Allieri quipped. “But this company is a consumer-facing company. It’s the happy pillow brand, right?”
Consumer-facing brands — companies that interact with the public on a regular basis — are more likely to be subject to the will of their employees, Allieri said. That means they need to get better at listening to the people who work for them, but will they?
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