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Verizon, Hearst to Acquire Complex Media

Verizon and Hearst have agreed to jointly acquire Complex Media, a video-focused media company that caters to young male audiences, in a 50-50 ownership structure.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The Verizon-Hearst pact values Complex at between $250 million and $300 million, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing anonymous sources. Rich Antoniello, Complex CEO and co-founder, will continue to lead the company, which was founded in 2002 by fashion designer Marc Ecko.

Hearst last fall invested $21 million in New York-based Complex. Previous investors in privately held Complex include Iconix Brand Group, S3 Ventures, Austin Ventures and Accel Partners.

The Complex deal comes after Verizon and Hearst’s recent investments in AwesomenessTV — each owns 24.5% stakes, with DreamWorks Animation owning the rest — and their agreement in March to form a joint venture to build new multiplatform digital video channels targeting the mobile millennial audience.

Complex’s coverage spans a range of pop culture topics, including entertainment news, sneakers and hip-hop music, as well as food, fashion, sports and technology. The company says it has been profitable since 2010.

“The decision to acquire Complex is certainly a continuation of our media strategy, which is focused on disruption that is occurring in digital media and content distribution, and involves building a portfolio of the emerging digital brands of the future for the millennial and Gen-Z audience,” Brian Angiolet, Verizon’s senior VP of consumer product and marketing, said in announcing the deal.

According to Complex, the company reaches more than 50 million unique monthly visitors and delivers 300 million monthly video views, representing 415% year-over-year growth. “Since honing in on video, we’ve proven our ability to create culturally relevant, premium video content at scale in a very short amount of time,” Antoniello said in a statement.

With the acquisition by Verizon and Hearst, Complex will develop premium video content for distribution across Verizon digital platforms, including the free, ad-supported Go90 service and AOL.com.

“Complex will turn up the volume on our growing portfolio with Verizon, complementing the audiences targeted with our other channel investments,” Neeraj Khemlani, co-president of Hearst Entertainment & Syndication, said in a statement. “Complex’s smart, fresh content aims squarely at the ever elusive young male demo and drives unparalleled engagement with that audience across every social channel.”

This spring, the Verizon-Hearst JV, dubbed Verizon Hearst Media Partners, expects to debut two initial channels: RatedRed.com, targeted at millennials outside urban areas, and Seriously.TV, stocked with comedic digital news segments updated throughout the day.

LionTree Advisors acted as adviser to Complex on the transaction, which is expected to close within the next 60 days subject to usual closing conditions.

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