If all goes according to plan, in another two or three months Vice Media will be owned by a group of three major lenders – Fortress Investment Group, Soros Fund Management and Monroe Capital – who have agreed to buy out the floundering youth media conglomerate. Allow me to put it another way: a renegade brand once famous for its R-rated “Dos and Don’ts” will likely soon be completely controlled by a consortium of faceless private equity sharks and investment managers .
Let’s put aside for a moment the established notion that, from an economic standpoint, Vice apparently operated for years like an overvalued house of cards, whose boastful co-founder and chief salesperson demonstrated a preternatural ability to wrangle billions of investment dollars. game Being to eventually sell or take the company public Shane Smith, Despite the shaky financial situation – and I won’t even get into the whole crisis of the toxic workplace culture – Vice has put a dent in the culture. Ben Smith recently told me when we talked about the pitfalls of digital media, “It’s a brand that, at least for Gen Xers like us, stands for something.” Or, as one Vice veteran put it to me the next day in the wake of the company’s stunning Chapter 11 filing, “You’ve got one of the most wild, historic, rolling brands of the last 50 years, and now Fortress owns it?”
Fortress, of course, is Vice Media’s largest creditor, holding an IOU worth $474,648,153, according to the bankruptcy filing, which also has debts to Pulse Films ($20.9 million), JPMorgan Chase ($9.8 million). ), CNN ($3.8 million). million) and HBO ($1.8 million), among many others. Fortress itself is reportedly being sold by SoftBank to Mubadala Investment Company, an Abu Dhabi-based sovereign wealth fund. Which means one way to look at the fate of Vice’s worker bees – already rocked last month by dozens of layoffs and the cancellation of the award-winning Vice news tonight– is that they may soon be toiling for the United Arab Emirates.
Convoluted ownership pyramids aside, people in the news business — and Vice is still in the news business, after all — have become increasingly wary of private equity in recent years, as financial firms have swallowed up stressed media entities and become the b one The Scariest Villain in Town is the Ever-Elusive Alden Global Capital, Whose Newspaper Stripping Vampire PlayBook I Wrote in 2020. Great Hil Partners’ Stewardship of the Erstwhile Gizmodo Media, which is at war with their new Overl Editorial International, is another cautionary tale. And Fortress has also been on the radar, largely through its control of Gannett, whose papers haven’t exactly had an easy time. “Fortress bears responsibility for the mess Gannett has become,” says the media analyst and entrepreneur know doctor, which Fortress has followed closely. “Fortress may look like a ‘media player’, but his behavior is very similar to Alden.”
Sources with insight into Vice Media’s inner workings counter that the buyers have found Fortress, which first invested in Vice in 2019, to be compliant and supportive as far as these kinds of relationships go. They point out that Fortress could have ruled out when the loans came due at the end of last year, but instead the due dates were pushed forward. Another thing from these conversations, for what it’s worth: The folks running Vice believe that Fortress promise sees for Vice to come out the other side of this mess as a much healthier company.
That said, the murmurs I’m hearing within Vice suggest that the staff isn’t ruling out another player coming along in the coming weeks, with a better offer than the Fortress-led group. and read about several parties they wanted to buy, including Group Black and Antenna Group, Greek broadcaster Vice had partnered in an international joint venture called Vice World News. Sources say there were at least five interested parties in the game, characterizing “Everyone is prepared for a Fortress future, but everyone also doesn’t just accept that this is what’s going to happen,” an insider tells me. “People are waiting to see how it plays out, which means there’s a lot of uncertainty in the air.”