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 discloses disturbing Data of 3,000+ Sexual Assault incidents
Uber’s sexual assault problem has skyrocketed, but a new company report released by the ride-sharing hub on Thursday reveals shocking details of the ongoing crisis, and it’s worse then you could fathom.
In the 84-page, self-released report, Uber revealed the company receives thousands of sexual assault and misconduct reports a year, according to NBC News.
The chilling data includes 235 reports of rape, 280 reports of attempted rape, 1,560 reports of groping, 376 reports of unwanted kissing to the breast, buttocks or mouth, and 594 reports of unwanted kissing to a different body part.
In total, the report reveals Uber received 5,981 reports of sexual abuse between 2017 and 2018. While riders are typically the victims in many of the company’s higher-profile sexual assault cases — such as those lodged by four female survivors in 2018 — Uber’s report claims passengers were actually the accused party in 45 percent of the reports filed.
“Each of those incidents represents an individual who has undergone a horrific trauma,” Uber’s chief legal officer Tony West told NBC News. “But I’m not surprised by those numbers,” he added. “I’m not surprised because sexual violence is just much more pervasive in society than I think most people realize.”
“We had to measure what was happening on our platform,” said West. “We know in business, if you don’t measure it, you can’t address it.”
Jeff Bezos sets sights on buying NFL team
Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos is reportedly planning on purchasing an National Football League (NFL) team and is currently in talks with several current owners.
According to CBS Sports, Bezos “has spent considerable time around owners, including Washington Redskins’ Dan Snyder, and is in the process of moving to Washington.” Bezos, is worth an estimated $110 billion, including ownership of The Washington Post.
“There are not any teams currently on the market, though the Seattle Seahawks will be sold at some point following the death of Paul Allen last year,” the report said on Sunday. Snyder has been trying to get a state-of-the-art stadium built in Washington, DC, and Bezos can help him build one.
“Bezos moved The Washington Post to a new location after purchasing the paper, is setting up an Amazon hub in the area and some believe could aid Snyder`s pursuit of a new stadium, perhaps even with an Amazon sponsorship,” the report elaborated. Amazon has a partnership with the NFL to stream Thursday Night Football and he may buy an NFL team from a business perspective.
NFL is a professional American football league consisting of 32 teams, divided equally between the National Football Conference and the American Football Conference.
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.
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