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UPDATE 1-Vice Media explores sale to Antenna Group -source

·2 min read

(Adds details about Vice)

By Dawn Chmielewski

July 25 (Reuters) - Vice Media Inc, a news and entertainment company, is in sale talks with one of its longtime partners, the Antenna Group, according to one person familiar with the discussions.

The media company, once valued at $5.7 billion, has been exploring its options since last autumn, after abandoning its plans to go public via a merger with the blank-check company 7GC & Co Holdings Inc. It has hired advisor PJT Partners and the investment bank LionTree to evaluate interest.

Group Black, a collective of Black-owned media firms, also is in discussions, according to the person and a second source. The Wall Street Journal previously reported the talks.

Vice declined to comment and Greece-based Antenna Group did not respond to a request for comment. Group Black could not immediately be reached for comment.

The New York Times reported the Antenna Group interest earlier on Friday.

Vice's assets include Vice Studios, the studio behind the Oscar-nominated documentary "Flee," and Pulse Films, the studio behind the show AMC show "Gangs of London" and Spike Jonze's "Beastie Boys Story" on Apple TV+.

Antenna Group, a privately-held media and entertainment company with a presence in Central and Eastern Europe, has been in partnership with Vice in 2014. The broadcaster now distributes Vice's programming in Greece, Romania, Serbia, and in the Balkans.

Vice is among a group of fast-rising digital media ventures that once commanded rich valuations, as they courted millennial audiences. It rose to prominence alongside its provocative co-founder, Shane Smith, who built his media empire from a single Canadian magazine.

Smith's aspirations to become the biggest media company in the world attracted such investors as Disney, Fox and the private equity firm TPG.

A New York Times article that recounted allegations of sexual harassment and a culture of "male entitlement" led Smith resign as the company's chief executive in 2018 and move to an executive chairman role.

The Brooklyn company named television veteran Nancy Dubuc, the onetime chief of A+E Networks, took the reins as CEO, charged with growing the business and transforming its culture.

Vice also owns a creative ad agency Virtue, a women's lifestyle publisher Refinery29, which it acquired in 2019, and a news division, whose "Vice News Tonight" picked up a total of 21 Emmy nominations. Its television network, Vice TV, is distributed to more than 60 million homes by A&E.

As recently as September 2021, Vice Media raised $135 million from some of its existing investors, including James Murdoch's Lupa Systems, TPG and TCV, as well as Antenna Group. The cash infusion provided revenue to fund operations and pursue deals. (Reporting by Dawn Chmielewski in Los Angeles; Editing by Daniel Wallis)