×

Univision Sells Gizmodo Media Group, The Onion to Private-Equity Firm Great Hill Partners

Univision Communications reached a deal to sell Gizmodo Media Group and The Onion to private-equity firm Great Hill Partners for an undisclosed amount.

With the sale, Great Hill will form a new company called G/O Media Inc., headed by digital content industry vet Jim Spanfeller, who also will be a “significant investor” in the company. The sale puts an end to Univision’s bid — under then-CEO Randy Falco — to diversify beyond its Hispanic broadcasting core business into what it had hoped would be a fast-growing, young-skewing mass digital play.

Terms of the all-cash deal weren’t disclosed. According to person familiar with the deal, Great Hill is paying considerably less than the $135 million that Univision paid in August 2016 for the Gawker assets in a bankruptcy auction, (which didn’t include Gawker.com). Univision acquired a 40% stake in The Onion in January 2017.

The brands moving from Univision to G/O Media are: Gizmodo (technology), Jalopnik (car culture), Jezebel (described as focused on “modern women’s interests”), Deadspin (sports), Lifehacker (life tips and hacks), Kotaku (gaming), Splinter (politics) and The Root (African-American news and culture), as well as The Onion, which includes its flagship satire publication, entertainment outlet A.V. Club, ClickHole and The Takeout. All told, according to the companies, G/O Media’s properties reach about 100 million unique monthly visitors.

Univision had said last summer that it was looking to offload the digital-media assets. With the exit by Falco and appointment of TV veteran Vince Sadusky as Univision’s CEO, the company decided to full return to its focus on Hispanic media and marketing.

“Our aim from the outset of this process was to sell these assets as one,” Sadusky said in a statement. “We are pleased to have found a terrific buyer in Great Hill Partners that is committed to growing these properties.”

The GMG and Onion websites will operate as “independent assets within the Great Hill Partners portfolio,” according to Univision.

A Univision rep said that all employees of GMG and The Onion will be joining G/O Media. A spokesperson for Great Hill didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry about whether any layoffs are expected with the change in ownership. According to the Writers Guild of America East, which represents 233 employees at Gizmodo Media Group and Onion, its members will continue to work under union-negotiated terms and conditions with Great Hill’s acquisition.

The Gizmodo Media/Onion collection of assets have “strong brand recognition among consumers and advertisers, and a set of engaged, vertical audiences which together are larger than Vox, BuzzFeed or Vice,” Great Hill managing partner Chris Gaffney said in a statement.

Great Hill Partners’ other media investments have included Ziff Davis, IGN, Momondo Group, Educaedu, Legacy.com, Action Media, All Web Leads (AWL), BuscaPé.com, Recruting.com, Dame Broadcasting, and Palm Beach Broadcasting.

Spanfeller is a former CEO of Forbes.com and past chairman of the IAB. He most recently built a native digital content company (Spanfeller Media Group) whose properties included The Daily Meal and The Active Times; in December 2016, he sold the company to Tribune Publishing Co. (then called Tronc). Prior to joining Forbes.com, he served as president of Ziff Davis Enterprise’s consumer magazine group, publisher of Inc. Magazine, and associate publisher of Playboy Enterprises Publishing Group.

“This opportunity comes at a time when the entire digital media category is beginning to be recognized again for its unique ability to meet the diverse content and delivery needs of consumers and advertisers,” Spanfeller said in a statement. “G/O Media is in an ideal position to capitalize on this dynamic.”

Morgan Stanley served as financial adviser to Univision in connection with the sale. Sidley Austin LLP served as legal adviser to Great Hill Partners.

Separately, Gawker — the flagship site of the former parent company of the Gizmodo Media Group sites — is slated to relaunch this year under Bustle Digital Group. In a bankruptcy auction last year, BDG CEO Bryan Goldberg paid $1.35 million for the media gossip blog, which went dark after Gawker Media was sued into bankruptcy by Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel. Bustle Digital Group has hired Dan Peres, formerly Details’ top editor, as Gawker’s editor-in-chief alongside publisher Amanda Hale (formerly with Joshua Topolsky’s The Outline, which BDG bought last month).

More TV

  • Rosario Dawson CFDA Fashion Awards, Arrivals,

    Rosario Dawson Cast in HBO Max Ava DuVernay Pilot 'DMZ'

    Rosario Dawson has been cast as the lead in the upcoming HBO Max pilot “DMZ,” which has Ava DuVernay on board as a director and Roberto Patino in place as writer-showrunner. The prospective series, which is based on the DC comic books of the same name, is described a futuristic drama set in an American civil [...]

  • 'Impeachment: American Crime Story' Casts Billy

    'Impeachment: American Crime Story' Casts Billy Eichner as Matt Drudge

    Billy Eichner has joined the growing cast of “Impeachment: American Crime Story” at FX. Variety has confirmed that Eichner has been cast in the role of Matt Drudge, who first broke the news of what would become the Monica Lewinsky scandal on his site, The Drudge Report. Drudge learned that Newsweek was sitting on a [...]

  • Ryan Tracey

    CAA Hires TV Agent Ryan Tracey (EXCLUSIVE)

    Creative Artists Agency (CAA) has hired Ryan Tracey as an agent in the television department, Variety has learned exclusively. Tracey comes to CAA from UTA, where he had most recently served as head of TV Production. He has represented an numerous television producers during his career, including Aida Rodgers, Kathy Ciric, Anna Dokoza, Ellen Kuras, Mark Winemaker, [...]

  • TV Ratings: 'This Is Us' Sterling

    TV Ratings: 'This Is Us' Sterling K. Brown-Focused Episode Wins Tuesday

    “This Is Us” lost a little ground in the TV ratings on Tuesday night, however, it still managed to lead NBC to a narrow victory on the night. The acclaimed drama scored a 1.4 rating among adults 18-49 and drew 6.5 million viewers, down fractionally on last week’s 1.5 rating and 6.7 million viewers. The [...]

  • Sundance Film Festival Placeholder

    Sundance, SXSW Among Festivals to Commit Credentials to Time's Up Critical (EXCLUSIVE)

    The Sundance Film Festival, South by Southwest, Tribeca, Bentonville, Athena, ATX Television Festival, and the Toronto International Film Festival have committed to allot a portion of their credentials to members of the Time’s Up Critical database, Variety has learned exclusively. The online hub aims to increase representation of women, people of color, people with disabilities [...]

  • Super Genius

    Amazon Prime Video in Latin America Snags Five Titles from Cisneros Media

    Global distributors group Cisneros Media Distribution has announced two telenovelas to be made available on Amazon Prime Video for Latin America, “Amore Secreto” and “Gata Salvaje,” as well as three Mobius.Lab-produced titles, “Cursed Bloodlines,” “Mysterious Earth” and “Super Genios.” Written by César Sierra and starring Miguel de León and Alejandra Sandoval, “Amore Secreto” follows Irene, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content