The nine-figure investment, which makes PMC the single largest stakeholder in Vox Media, Inc., is being met with controversy after the company’s significant job cuts less than one month ago.
In January, Vox Media, Inc. laid off 7% of its workforce as CEO Jim Bankoff cited a “challenging economic environment.” Now, the company has improved its position financially for the months and years ahead — Penske Media Corporation announced a major investment in the digital publisher whose several brands include Vox.com, New York magazine, SB Nation, Popsugar, Thrillist, and Vulture.
The New York Times was first to report the news on Feb. 6.
PMC is investing $100 million in Vox, constituting a 20% stake in the company that will make them Vox’s single largest equity stakeholder as part of a list of investors that includes NBCUniversal, Accel Partners, Khosla Ventures, and General Atlantic. PMC CEO and founder Jay Penske will join Vox Media’s Board of Directors as part of the deal, but the two companies will effectively operate independently.
“I have long admired Vox Media’s world-class editorial teams and brands,” Penske said in a statement. “We deeply respect the track record of both [Vox Media CEO] Jim Bankoff and the senior leadership team at Vox, and the company’s remarkable growth over the last decade.”
This latest news is an encouraging development for both Vox Media at the corporate level and its shareholders, but it’s already being met with controversy in light of the company just having eliminated 130 jobs in late January after cutting 39 in July 2022. By Bankoff’s own willing admission (emphasis mine):
“This investment by Penske Media will allow Vox Media to continue scaling its existing brands and operations, while providing resources for future acquisitions, and is another step forward in the ongoing ascent of Vox Media.”
Cutting your workforce only to turn right around less than a month later and speak openly about expanding the business through acquisitions is a heck of a choice (and plenty of former employees and media industry observers aren’t exactly overjoyed.)
“The Penske Media and Vox Media alliance will further cement both companies as leaders in modern media and take advantage of new opportunities at scale,” Jay Penske said. “Our two companies share a similar history of organic and acquisitive growth over time, and it made sense to invest for the future.”
Penske Media boasts the ownership of entrainment-based media publication Variety, and they also hold equity stakes in Rolling Stone, The Hollywood Reporter, Billboard, Dick Clark Productions, WWD, SHE Media, Robb Report, Deadline, Sportico, BGR, ARTnews, Fairchild Media, Vibe, IndieWire, Dirt, Artforum, Gold Derby, Spy.com and Luminate.
As Bankoff concluded on the occasion:
“We couldn’t ask for a better partner than Jay and Penske Media to invest in our company’s future success, and help us build on and accelerate the leading creative and business strength across our organization.”
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