Vice raises $135M as SPAC plans sputter

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Vice Media said Thursday that it raised $135 million from existing investors, as the company’s plans to go public through a merger with a special purpose acquisition company stalled.

The Brooklyn-based media company, which was founded by larger-than-life exec Shane Smith, said the cash infusion will be used to “to fund its growth initiatives including expanding Vice’s direct-to-consumer offerings, content licensing opportunities, commercial and experiential expansion, as well as M&A.”

Initially, Vice had plans to go public via blank-check company 7GC & Co., but those talks ended recently, and the company pivoted to raising money from existing investors like TCV, Lupa Systems and TPG. Earlier it was reported by The Information that the company raised $85 million but the company now says it raised $135 million. As previously reported by The Post, Smith was forced to give up voting control, as new investors wouldn’t agree to fund the company without gaining control of it.

Vice declined to comment to The Post on Smith’s voting control, nor did it expound on whether the company will continue to fundraise or try to re-engage in SPAC talks again.

Smith will remain as executive vice chairman, however, after stepping aside as CEO of the company in 2018. Former A&E Networks boss Nancy Dubuc has filled his shoes since then, and has been tasked with bringing the company to profitability — which it has yet to sustainably achieve — and securing some sort of exit for private equity investors.

Vice co-founder and executive chairman Shane Smith with CEO Nancy Dubuc. Vice co-founder and executive chairman Shane Smith with CEO Nancy Dubuc.Getty Images for VICE Media

At its height Vice had a bloated valuation of $5.7 billion after private equity investor TPG gave the company a $450 million injection of capital. But that infusion came at a cost, as Vice agreed to hefty future repayments, according to reports.

Although it is not immediately clear what the company is valued at today, Vice’s deal to merge with 7GC put the company’s value at nearly $3 billion.

Vice’s change of strategy comes as the once-red-hot SPAC market has begun to cool, in part because of new scrutiny from the Securities and Exchange Commission on overinflated revenue projections made by some startups that are merging with SPACs.

Sources told The Post earlier this week that Vice likely didn’t have attractive enough financials to make the deal work, and that now it faces a handful of options, including emergency cash bailouts from investors, cutting costs, selling the company or breaking up the business.

Vice declined to comment on those options down the road.

But under Dubuc, the company, which includes Vice News, women’s lifestyle site Refinery29 and fashion publication i-D, has made some headway in digital traffic, as the CEO reorients it to focus more on video over the written word.

“We believe we are in a stronger position today than ever before and we look forward to taking this business to the next level with this additional investment.” Dubuc said.

“Management and our investors believe strongly in the intrinsic value and strong prospects of Vice – now and in the future. We have worked closely with them to develop and put in motion a comprehensive strategic and financial plan to continue moving Vice forward, and we are confident that this is the right step for the company at this time.”

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