Emerson Collective, the social impact enterprise founded by Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, is in talks to back BuzzFeed’s news division, Variety has been able to confirm. Talks between the two companies are said to be in very preliminary stages, and have not yet reached the stage of high-level business discussions.
The talk of a possible investment comes two months after news surfaced that BuzzFeed may have missed its 2017 revenue targets, with sources telling the Wall Street Journal at the time at the company’s revenue for the year may be up to 20% below its $350 million goal. BuzzFeed didn’t dispute those numbers, but told Variety at the time that it was able to grow key metrics including revenue, content views and unique visitors in 2017.
BuzzFeed was at one point positioning itself for a possible IPO, but that prospect seemed less likely in light of the reported revenue miss, and a general volatile outlook in the media space — all of which could give the idea of a backing by an outside entity more credence. However, it’s unclear whether a backing of BuzzFeed’s news operation would necessarily result in a spin-out of the entity.
Emerson Collective, which was founded by Jobs in 2004, previously invested in Axios, and acquired the majority of the Atlantic last summer. Its investment portfolio also includes the podcast startup gimlet media, “Mr. Robot” production company Anonymous Content, and VR studio Within.
In addition to these more traditional media investments, Emerson has also been backing journalism nonprofit organizations like ProPublica and the criminal justice-focused Marshall Project. It also runs an anti-gun-violence project in Chicago and has been working on education reform initiatives.