Vice hires advisers to seek buyer, may sell in pieces: sources

Shane Smith, co-founder of Vice.

CNBC

Vice Media, the once $5.7 billion digital media company, has hired bankers to seek a sale, according to people familiar with the matter.

Several buyers have expressed preliminary interest in acquiring Vice outright, people familiar with the matter said. Although finding a single buyer would be an easier solution for Vice, given potential issues with the company’s valuation and outstanding debt, it is also exploring options to sell the company in parts. the sources said.

information reported Friday Vice is buying its content studio business and has named PJT Partners and LionTree as banks helping the company with the transaction.

Probably Vice’s most sought-after assets are its content studio and its creative advertising agency, Virtue, people said. The studio business includes Pulse Films, which Vice announced in March it had acquired after previously holding only a majority stake. Pulse has made a number of popular music documentaries, including Beyonce’s “Lemonade” and “Beastie Boys Story.” The documentary film market is particularly hot right now for sales and consolidation, one of the people said.

Vice attempted to publicize via an ad hoc acquisition company last year, striking a deal with 7GC & Co Holdings. But plans for an IPO stalled after the market cooled and investors were unconvinced by Vice’s prospects as a standalone public company, CNBC reported last year.

Assessment issues

Vice was an early darling of the digital media industry, culminating in 2017 with a $450 million investment from private equity firm TPG that valued the company at nearly $6 billion. Vice was aiming for a valuation of around $3 billion, including debt, when it attempted an IPO last year. If Vice agrees to a deal to sell the entire business, the price is likely to be significantly lower than that, two of the interviewees said. The Wall Street Journal reported last year that Vice felt it reached $1 billion in revenue by the end of 2023.

Vice is considering a sale as it seeks cash for investors and to help pay down about $1 billion in debt. Disney already canceled its $400 million investment in 2019 with the hope that it will be worthless.

Discussions with potential buyers are ongoing, the sources said. No deal is assured or imminent, they said. TPG is not interested in acquiring all of Vice and is instead looking to monetize some of its investment, one of the people said.

“The market is very active in the studio space at the moment and we’ve built a large-scale, world-class studio business that generates inquiries – when there’s that kind of interest, we have to heed it. for our investors,” a Vice spokesperson said. . “Beyond that, there is nothing to comment on.”

A TPG spokesman declined to comment.

Vice also has an information site and other digital media assets, including Refinery29, which it acquired in 2019 for $400 million. Digital media companies such as BuzzFeed and Vox Media have consolidated their assets in recent years and could be potential buyers for those assets, one of the people said.

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