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Russell Simmons-Founded All Def Digital Lays Off Staff in Reorg; CEO Claims Company Isn’t Shutting Down

All Def Digital, the hip-hop and urban youth culture media company founded by Russell Simmons, has gone through a major restructuring but is not folding, according to president and CEO Chris Blackwell.

Last week, citing anonymous sources, internet-video publication Tubefilter reported that All Def Digital was shutting down after broad layoffs and that an unnamed business-advisory firm was “divvy[ing] up assets” of the company.

Reached via email, Blackwell denied that the company was closing its doors. “We are reorganizing the company in advance of a strategic deal,” he wrote, declining to provide additional details. Greycroft partner Mark Terbeek, one of ADD’s board members and a lead investor in the company, declined to comment (referring inquiries to Blackwell).

Simmons stepped down from his involvement in All Def Digital in 2017 following sexual-assault allegations. Multiple women accused the media mogul of raping them; Simmons denied the allegations. According to Blackwell, Simmons hasn’t had an ownership interest in ADD since early 2018.

Simmons, the co-founder of music label Def Jam Recordings, originally launched ADD as a YouTube network in 2013 in partnership with AwesomenessTV. The company expanded into a multiplatform network and studio, which had deals with HBO and YouTube for originals, along with live events, and brand partnerships through its in-house agency ADHD.

All Def, based in downtown L.A. near the Staples Center, has raised about $18 million from investors including WPP Ventures, Allen DeBevoise’s Third Wave Digital Partners, Andreessen Horowitz, Nu Horizons Investments, Greycroft, e.ventures and Shari Redstone’s Advancit Capital.

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