Vice Media Group, popular for websites such as Vice and Motherboard, filed for bankruptcy protection on Monday to engineer its sale to a group of lenders, capping years of financial difficulties and top-executive departures.
Vice said that the lender consortium, which includes Fortress Investment Group, Soros Fund Management and Monroe Capital, will provide about $225 million US in the form of a credit bid for substantially all of the company’s assets and also assume significant liabilities at closing.
Under a credit bid, creditors can swap their secured debt, rather than pay cash, for the company’s assets. The company listed both assets and liabilities in the range of $500 million to $1 billion, according to a court filing.
“Creditors are taking it [Vice] over at a steep discount and we will find out whether they can become viable with a much slimmer capital structure coming out of bankruptcy,” said Thomas Hayes, chairman at investment firm Great Hill Capital.
Vice said that it received commitments for debtor-in-possession financing from the lenders, as well as consent to use more than $20 million in cash, which it said will be “more than sufficient” to fund its business throughout the sale process.
The bankruptcy filing comes amid a challenging period for several technology and media companies, as they resort to downsizing in recent months due to a turbulent economy and weak advertising market.
Vice, with headquarters in New York City, was among a group of fast-rising digital media ventures that once commanded rich valuations as they courted millennial audiences. It rose to prominence alongside its co-founder, Shane Smith, who built his media empire from a single Canadian magazine in Montreal.
In April, the company said it would cancel popular TV program Vice News Tonight as part of a broader restructuring that would result in job cuts across the digital media firm’s global news business.
Last month, BuzzFeed Inc said it would shutter its news division, which was renowned for its irreverent and probing coverage, but ultimately succumbed to the challenges of its digital-first business model.
“This climate coupled with a difficult equity raising environment due to higher rates is taking some of the smaller players out to pasture,” Hayes said.