Vice Media Buys Refinery29 In Merger Of Established Digital Brands

Vice Media has acquired Refinery29, adding a female-centric component as the company continues to plot a new course under CEO Nancy Dubuc.

The official announcement of the deal described it as two digital media brands “joining forces” and didn’t disclose any terms of the transaction. Refinery executives have said the company brought in $100 million in revenue last year.

The Refinery29 business will report directly into Dubuc, who took the helm at Vice in 2018 after a long stint at A+E Networks, which remains an investor in Vice along with Disney and other media stakeholders. The combined leadership organization and structures will be announced after the close of the deal, which is expected in the coming months.

“Bringing together our companies signals a new era of lasting change in digital media,” Dubuc said in a press release. “We are doubling down on the power of brand, voice and experience – things our audience puts trust in – as we strengthen our position for a competitive future.”

Vice is in the midst of a transition under Dubuc, who took over from company co-founder Shane Smith. Vice has seen its multi-year relationship with HBO sunset, striking new TV and streaming deals on Showtime and Hulu and re-routing Vice News Tonight to the Viceland cable network from HBO.

Refinery29 is led by Co-CEOs Justin Stefano and Philippe von Borries. Founded in 2005, it scaled along with other digital brands as social media disseminated its content across a wider and wider footprint. Its emphasis on female storytelling has also helped it distinguish itself.

The merger will take Refinery’s brand into the international marketplace, where Vice currently derives 50% of its total revenue.

The deal follows the combination of Vox Media and New York magazine and comes as established digital players continue to streamline and optimize their businesses after initial periods of spectacular growth. One stiff headwind faced by everyone outside of Google and Facebook is the immense share of online advertising controlled by Google and Facebook. The announcement of the Vice-Refinery deal highlighted the many additional revenue sources being explored, including film and TV projects.

“This is an expansive moment for independent media,” Dubuc said. “Vice Media Group and Refinery29, two of the strongest independent voices in the industry, will continue to build a scaled global and diversified media company. We will not allow a rapidly consolidating media ecosystem to constrict young people’s choices or their ability to freely express themselves about the things they care about most. At Vice and Refinery29, the megaphone is theirs to use and the platforms are theirs to build with us.”

Stefano and von Borries shouted out co-founders Christene Barberich and Piera Gelardi in their statement on the deal. “Over the past 15 years, we have been at the forefront of redefining
media, achieving great scale in our digital business while successfully diversifying from live events to originals,” they said. “This transformational partnership will allow our mission and business to flourish further. We are proud to partner with Nancy and Vice Media Group, and we are confident that together we will be able to expand our vital role in shaping culture and positively impacting the world
for young people everywhere.”

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