Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 August 2019

Vice Media raises $250m from investors including George Soros

Funds will be used to drive media company’s turnaround plan

George Soros' Soros Fund Management and others have invested in Vice Media. Reuters
George Soros' Soros Fund Management and others have invested in Vice Media. Reuters

Vice Media, which launched the Middle East’s Vice Arabia platform in 2017, raised $250 million in debt from a group of investors including American financier George Soros as it continues implementing a turnaround strategy.

The collection of investors include sports, music and entertainment finance specialist 23 Capital, investment groups Fortress and Monroe Capital, and Mr Soros’ firm, Soros Fund Management, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Vice, known for its edgy journalism style, had been looking to raise new capital in recent months after suffering a slowdown in revenues, which prompted the company to lay off 250 people – around 15 per cent of its workforce – earlier this year.

The new debt funding will be used to accelerate growth, “allowing us to execute our new leadership’s strategic vision for the company”, a Vice spokeswoman was quoted as telling the WSJ. Chief executive Nancy Dubuc has been in post for around a year and began a company-wide restructure in February to regain the firm's former growth momentum.

Successive funding rounds in recent years led to Vice’s valuation soaring – including securing $400m over two rounds from the Walt Disney Company in 2015, and $450m from US private equity investor TPG Capital in 2017, the latter of which valued Vice at $5.7 billion.

However, after its initial rapid expansion, Vice missed revenue targets by $100m in 2017, mainly due to weaknesses at Viceland, the cable channel it set up in partnership with A+E Networks, and its digital video operation, the UK’s Financial Times reported in February. Disney last year wrote down the value of its investment in Vice by $157m.

The new debt financing will be used to finance the restructure, which involves consolidating its offshoot media divisions. It is the first round of financing for the company since the TPG's investment in 2017, and is seen as a vote of confidence for Ms Dubuc, who took over from Vice co-founder Shane Smith last May.

Vice announced plans in late 2017 to start hiring journalists, film makers and creatives to staff a new office in Dubai, as it sought to target media-hungry millennials in the Middle East. The company teamed up with Afghan businessman Saad Mohseni, chairman of the Moby Group, which has media interests across the region.

Investment banking firm Guggenheim Securities advised on the $250m investment, according to WSJ, while Shearman & Sterling was the legal adviser.

Updated: May 4, 2019 01:11 PM

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