Vice Media files for bankruptcy and agrees sale of assets

US-Canadian youth-skewing digital firm Vice Media Group has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in New York and agreed a sale of assets to a consortium of lenders.

Gangs of London

As had been expected, Fortress Investment Group, the company’s largest debtholder, will form part of the new ownership, alongside Soros Fund Management and Monroe Capital.

The group will invest around $225m as a credit bid for control of almost all of Vice Media’s assets and will take on significant liabilities upon closing.

Vice Media has listed assets and liabilities in the range of $500m to £1bn. The group is home to UK-based Gangs Of London producer Pulse Films, as well as the Vice TV network, the Vice Studios film & TV unit, a distribution arm, Refinery29, agency Carrot Creative and fashion title i-D.

The sale of the group is expected to take between two to three months to complete, with day-to-day operations to remain unaffected.

Vice Media has secured more than $20m from the consortium which, along with revenues from its business, is expected to fund the company throughout the sale process.

Search for buyer

Vice Media Group had been looking for a buyer for more than a year as advertising shifts and declining audiences hit its profitability.

The firm started life as the alternative-punk Vice magazine in the 1990s and grew into a major media brand over the decades, valued at $5.7bn in 2017.

However, as the listing shows, the company is now estimated to be worth only a small fraction of that figure.

Turbulence at the firm has seen a number of senior exec exits, with Bruce Dixon and Hozefa Lokhandwala appointed co-CEO’s at Vice after Nancy Dubuc stepped down in February. Her arrival in 2018 followed a flurry of allegations against Vice founder Shane Smith.

Dubuc’s departure was preceded by the exit of Kate Ward, who had been president of Vice’s global studios operation since 2019 and led Pulse Films since its founders’ left last year. Ward joined BBC Studios (BBCS) Productions as MD of its factual operations in September.

The firm has also been shifting its operations internationally, closing linear networks and its operations in France, as well as pushing into FAST news channels, as revealed by DTVE sister title TBI.

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