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Fortress to rescue Vice Media out of bankruptcy

A consortium of buyers led by Fortress Investment Group will spend $350 million to rescue Vice Media out of bankruptcy.

The move will allow Fortress to take over Vice Media and its subsidiary brands, including Motherboard, Refinery 29 and Vice Media’s stake in Vice TV, a cable channel jointly owned with A+E Networks.

A bankruptcy-related auction for Vice Media assets had been scheduled for Thursday, but was called off after Fortress made its offer, according to the New York Times. Executives at Vice Media told employees on Thursday they intend to bring the offer from Fortress to a bankruptcy judge handling their case, the Times said.

GoDigital Media, a Los Angeles-based intellectual property firm, submitted its own bid in an attempt to acquire Vice Media, according to a spokesperson for the company. It wasn’t immediately clear how much GoDigital offered, but the firm said the bid would have paved the way for the “rejuvenation, growth, and expansion” of the Vice brand.

“Our offer was significantly more than the stalking horse bid by the sellers,” a spokesperson for GoDigital Media said in a statement to The Desk. “Our approach included a concrete plan with real, renewed leadership, expertise, and investment that would have led to a profitable Vice in under 12 months. Ours was the best plan— in spite of Fortress saying they submitted the only bid —to right size the company to the benefit of Vice and its brands, employees, partners, and consumers.”

Despite the better bid, GoDigital Media said Fortress “chose to turn down this opportunity, even though it was a bid higher than their own.”

“The level of thinking required to solve a problem is typically greater than the level of thinking that created the problem itself. In our opinion, a continuation of the leadership that was a part of Vice’s journey to bankruptcy runs directly counter to the integrity and accountability now demanded in business,” the spokesperson affirmed. “We think Fortress’s decision is the wrong choice, and the company, employees, partners, and consumers will suffer. We believe the choice for Vice’s future is clear, [and] we remain ready to acquire the company on fair and reasonable terms where all parties come to the table focused on the best benefit of the company.”

Vice Media filed its Chapter 11 bankruptcy case in May. At the time of the filing, Vice Media said it had reached a deal with some of its creditors, including Fortress, to acquire some or all of its assets for around $225 million. The case was intended to help Vice Media solicit higher bids while it restructured much of its debt.

While Vice TV was not initially part of the Chapter 11 case, sources confirmed it will be part of the acquisition by Fortress.

Vice Media found itself on a short list of Millennial-focused media darlings that drew sizable cash investments about a decade ago, which helped fund its unique brand of journalism aimed at young and underserved audiences.

Like other brands, Vice Media struggled to earn a return on that investment for its creditors, weighed down in part by the global health pandemic of three years ago coupled with a downturn in the domestic ad market and a shift away from written and long-form video content toward other forms of media.

In April, Vice said it was laying off around 100 workers and shutting down parts of its news division as part of a broad restructuring of its business. The company’s flagship news program, “Vice News Tonight,” was shut down as part of the move.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).