Vice Media, once valued at nearly $6 billion, is headed toward bankruptcy proceedings.
The liberal outlet, which courted investments from the likes of Disney and Fox, has struggled to attract a buyer for its brash and alternative programming choices, according to sources who spoke with the New York Times.
While a last-minute buyer for Vice remains a possibility, at least five prospects have passed on the opportunity after digging into the company’s financials. Representatives for Vice estimate any sale will now fetch a bargain-basement price of less than $1 billion. Fortress Investment Group, the majority owner, has been spearheading the fire sale as it looks to recoup costs after granting Vice a $30 million lifeline earlier this year.
The outlet’s bills have piled so high that some vendors are resorting to debt collectors before the outlet is gone for good.
The fragmentation of digital media has generated a surplus of competition for Vice, which has lost ad revenue to competitors like Google and missed its revenue estimate by $100 million in 2022. Once a flashy production on HBO, the company’s contract was not renewed after a seven-year run before moving to Showtime for two seasons. Vice earned positive ratings from critics for its gonzo-style journalism, especially in foreign affairs where reporters would tape segments from remote locations like North Korea.
As bankruptcy approaches, company executives are also exploring selling the business off for parts. Refinery29, a female-focused digital brand, in-house marketing firm Virtue, and video production arm Vice Studios may all be standalone purchases that would see some investments returned to Fortress. Disney, which owned a minority stake, has already written down its investments meaning the company will not see any proceeds from a sale should it occur.
Vice is the second digital news outlet to collapse in recent weeks after Buzzfeed News announced it would close its doors in March. Like Vice, the liberal media outlet placed an emphasis on flashy production and over-invested in its newsroom which was not able to attract the advertising dollars needed to sustain operations.