UPDATED with deal official: Vox Media has inked a deal to acquire Group Nine, a leading collection of multi-platform media brands including The Dodo, NowThis, PopSugar, Thrillist, and Seeker. The portfolio will join Vox Media brands including SB Nation, New York Magazine, The Verge, Vox, Eater, The Cut, Vulture, Polygon, and The Strategist, along with its rapidly growing podcast and studios business, and diversified revenue model across advertising, content distribution, commerce, and subscriptions.
The merger creates a significant digital media company and further strengthens Vox Media’s business, reaching audiences at scale on all platforms from podcasts to premium streaming services like Netflix and Hulu to YouTube to TikTok and Roku as well as owned and operated websites and print. The deal, subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory approval, is expected to close in early 2022. Financial details of the transaction weren’t released..
The transaction is not part of the the Group Nine SPAC called Group Nine Acquisition Corp., which is a separate entity.
Jim Bankoff will be the CEO and chair of Vox Media, of which he is also a co-founder. Group Nine founder and CEO Ben Lerer will join the board of Vox Media and maintain a presence at the company to help drive key strategic initiatives and advise on commercial and corporate development.
“Under Ben’s stewardship, Group Nine has navigated from a scrappy start-up to one of the biggest and most successful publishers in the industry. Much like us, their team has proven to be a leader in both building cherished media brands from the ground-up as well as successfully acquiring and integrating properties. With this acquisition, Vox Media will extend its leadership into new categories, formats and distribution platforms by welcoming more beloved properties into our portfolio,” said Bankoff. “Our combined company will be the premier home for creators, storytellers, journalists, product innovators and business people who want to grow their careers and have an impact through their work. This acquisition will build on and accelerate the leading creative and business strength that both companies already have achieved.”
“We could not be more excited about the opportunity to join forces with Vox Media. This combination will not only create unparalleled scale and revenue diversification, it will bring together some of the most popular brands, premium content, and creative and business talent in the world. There is no one I would trust more to lead this company and the team I love than Jim. He is not only kind and fair, but fearless and focused. This is the beginning of our most exciting chapter,” said Ben Lerer.
Vox Media will have nearly 350 million social media followers, 6 billion monthly video views, and an advertising marketplace, Concert, that reaches hundreds of millions of people each month.
PREVIOUSLY: Vox Media, which owns digital brands like The Verge, Eater and Polygon as well as New York magazine, is in advanced talks to merge with Group Nine Media.
Multiple media outlets have reported an all-stock deal is imminent. The Wall Street Journal, which was first to report the discussions, said Vox would gain 75% control of the new entity. Vox Media CEO Jim Bankoff is in line to run the combined company and Group Nine chief Ben Lerer would be a member of the new board of directors.
Group Nine, whose brand include Thrillist and NowThis, is part-owned by Discovery Communications. In 2019, it acquired Pop Sugar. It also recently formed a special-purpose acquisition company as a vehicle for potential deals, though the Journal reported the Vox deal did not involve the SPAC.
Digital outlets, which have disrupted traditional print ones, have faced challenges in their advertising businesses. While traffic has risen and overall spending on digital is surging, Facebook, Google and lately Amazon have commanded the vast majority of that revenue. Companies that were growing spectacularly a decade ago have been retrenching and consolidating.
“While our combined scale is remarkable, it’s the passion that their teams put into their work that will make this combination a natural fit,” Bankoff wrote in a note to employees, per multiple reports.
The deal, he said, is expected to close in early 2022. The merged company is projected to have $700 million in annual revenue, according to the Journal.
Bankoff co-founded Vox in 2011 as an umbrella entity for The Verge and sports brand SB Nation.
Jill Goldsmith contributed to this report