Vice Media reported to be on the verge of bankruptcy

by | May 5, 2023 | News

Vice Media Group, one of the pioneers of digital first media, is reportedly on the brink of bankruptcy. The company, which saw its valuation peak at $5.7bn in 2017, had been looking for a buyer – but its proposed price tag of $1.5bn has not attracted any takers.

News of a possible bankruptcy was broken by the New York Times. In a statement, the company responded: “Vice Media Group has been engaged in a comprehensive evaluation of strategic alternatives and planning. The company, its board and stakeholders continue to be focused on finding the best pathway for the company.”

Vice, whose assets include Vice News, Motherboard, Refinery29 and Vice TV, has been on the defensive for some time. As long ago as 2019, Disney wrote off its $400m investment in the company as worthless. More recently, Vice has been engaged in a series of restructuring initiatives in a bid to make the company viable.

In February, Fortress Investment Group, the company’s debt holder, extended a $30m funding line to enable Vice to pay vendors. The same month, the highly-rated Nancy Dubuc, who took over as CEO in 2018, departed the firm unexpectedly.

Vice captured the imagination of the media industry in the early part of the last decade when its youth-oriented business model was heralded as the future of content creation and distribution. At MIPTV 2014, Vice co-founder Shane Smith told delegates: “I’m not going to be the next CNN, I’m not going to be the next ESPN, I’m not going to be the next MTV. I’m going to be 10x CNN, I’m going to be 10x ESPN and 10x MTV. That’s the disruption. That’s the revolution.” Aside from Disney, Fox also invested in the firm.

Reports suggest that potential buyers are looking at a deal under the $1bn mark. If that doesn’t happen, the company is expected to enter bankruptcy. Should that be the case, then Fortress may emerge from the process as the company’s new owner.

2023 has been a tough year so far for digital media firms – which have struggled with the weak ad market. BuzzFeed, which has also been struggling to build a sustainable business model, recently closed its popular BuzzFeed News operation.

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