Vice Media bankruptcy: Provocative startup was once valued at $5.7 billion The punk media startup known for its provocative visual storytelling and explicit voice, will be bought by some of the company's leaders for $225 million and the assumption of significant liabilities.

Vice Media, once worth $5.7 billion, files for bankruptcy

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Vice Media, once a buzzy and provocative digital media startup, has fizzled. It filed for bankruptcy earlier today. A group of its biggest lenders have agreed to purchase the company for $225 million. That is less than 5% of what investors once estimated it was worth. NPR's Mary Yang has more.

MARY YANG, BYLINE: Vice Media launched in 1994 as a punk magazine in Montreal. Over the years, its company profile and digital footprint ballooned. It acquired lifestyle brand Refinery29, started an in-house creative agency and embarked on ambitious, time-consuming projects all over the world. Back in 2016, after it bagged $400 million from Disney, Vice's co-founder and then-CEO Shane Smith described its magic.


SHANE SMITH: Cool, by definition, is small. And we've been cool for a long time. And we believe our content's just as good, if not better, than most people out there.

YANG: Other titans, such as Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox, funneled massive sums of money into Vice. Eventually, investors put Vice's value at a whopping $5.7 billion. They expected huge profits. Most lost all they put into it. Now Karen North, a communications professor at USC, notes that Vice is the latest digital news outlet to crash and burn.

KAREN NORTH: We really are at a moment in time where the shiny, new object of digital and social media is a little bit less shiny, and people are thinking maybe it's not the only or the best investment.

YANG: Over the years, Vice had also been weakened by a series of scandals, including complaints of sexual harassment among its ranks. Executives departed. And Smith's own behavior came under sharp scrutiny, and he left. Now his replacement is gone, too. Vice says its sale will take two to three months, supervised by a bankruptcy court. It says it plans to emerge with its staff and journalism intact. Mary Yang, NPR News.


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