Vice Plans Hundreds of Layoffs: Trying to Sell the Business

VENICE, CA - FEBRUARY 01: Vice Media offices display the Vice logo at dusk on February 1,
Mario Tama/Getty Images

Vice Media announced in a memo this week that it will be laying off hundreds of employees as it faces a sale.

Vice Media CEO Bruce Dixon said in the company-wide email that the decision to lay off “several hundred” staff members did not come lightly.

“This decision was not made lightly,” Dixon wrote.

Dixon added that fired staffers will be notified of the next steps next week.

The memo said that Refinery 29, another brand owned by Vice, “will continue to operate as a standalone diversified digital publishing business, creating engaging, social-first content.”

“As you know, we are in advanced discussions to sell this business, and we are continuing with that process. We expect to announce more on that in the coming weeks,” Dixon said.

As Breitbart News reported in May of last year, Vice had announced a plan to file for bankruptcy after being previously valued at $5 billion with deals at major companies. Two sources familiar with the situation told the New York Times last year that Vice has been looking for a buyer to potentially stave off filing for bankruptcy and that no such buyer materialized yet. Per the report:

The company has been looking for a buyer, and still might find one, to avoid declaring bankruptcy. More than five companies have expressed interest in acquiring Vice, according to a person briefed on the discussions. The chances of that, however, are growing increasingly slim, said one of the people with knowledge of the potential bankruptcy.

A bankruptcy filing would be a bleak coda to the tumultuous story of Vice, a new-media interloper that sought to supplant the media establishment before persuading it to invest hundreds of millions of dollars. In 2017, after a funding round from the private-equity firm TPG, Vice was worth $5.7 billion. But today, by most accounts, it’s worth a tiny fraction of that.

In the event of a bankruptcy, Vice’s largest debtholder, Fortress Investment Group, could end up controlling the company, said one of the people. Vice would continue operating normally and run an auction to sell the company over a 45-day period, with Fortress in pole position as the most likely acquirer.

Fortress would be the first company to be paid out in a sale since it has senior debt. The source confirmed that companies like Disney and Fox, both of which invested in Vice, will not be seeing a return.

As even the mainstream media has chronicled, Vice has faced a tumultuous set of challenges over the years as it blossomed from a basic punk magazine into a global news outlet with deals at HBO and its own film studio. In 2017, for instance, the company suspended its head of documentaries amid allegations of sexual harassment during the #MeToo heyday.

Former Vice Los Angeles bureau chief Kaj Larsen also was accused of sexual harassment according to a Daily Beast story in which current and past employees alleged there was a “dirty, toxic culture” at Vice.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 01: VICE Co-Founder and Executive Chairman Shane Smith (L) and VICE CEO Nancy Dubuc attend VICE NewFronts 2019 at Jing Fong Restaurant on May 01, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for VICE Media)

VICE Co-Founder and Executive Chairman Shane Smith and VICE CEO Nancy Dubuc attend VICE NewFronts 2019 at Jing Fong Restaurant on May 01, 2019, in New York City. (Craig Barritt/Getty Images for VICE Media)

In 2015, Disney considered buying Vice after investing millions of dollars into the company but the deal never went through, the two sources told the Times. In 2018, Shane Smith stepped down as Vice Media CEO and was replaced by Nancy Dubuc, who stepped down from her role last year after five years with the company.

Speaking on a conference call on Thursday, Josh Visser, the Vice News executive editor, said company executives have not given him any indication of a website closure, calling the situation “very upsetting.”

“I don’t know more than you guys besides being able to read faces and notice who is not replying to my messages,” Visser said, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

“Our website and our work being pulled down would be completely reprehensible … I cannot even understand any business reasons why you would do something like that,” he added.

Paul Roland Bois directed the award-winning feature filmEXEMPLUM, which can be viewed for FREE on YouTube or Tubi. “Better than Killers of the Flower Moon,” wrote Mark Judge. “You haven’t seen a story like this before,” wrote Christian Toto. A high-quality, ad-free stream can also be purchased on Google Play or Vimeo on Demand. Follow him on Twitter @prolandfilms or Instagram @prolandfilms.


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