Mar 29, 2022 - Economy

Scoop: OnlyFans wants to go public

Illustration of "XXX" symbols made from crossed hundred dollar bills.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

OnlyFans has held talks with multiple blank check companies, or SPACs, about a merger to take it public, sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: OnlyFans is a massive social media platform, with millions of monthly users who've cumulatively paid out billions of dollars to creators. But its adult content has spooked some potential investors and SPAC partners.

  • The company may also face labor issues, as many of its employees are based in Ukraine. OnlyFans' majority owner is Leo Radvinsky, a controversial American of Ukrainian descent, and the company has donated digital currency to provide money and relocation services to those in the region.

Catch up quick: OnlyFans tried raising private capital last year, to partially cash out Radvinsky, but that effort didn't gain traction because of the platform's adult content, Axios previously reported.

  • It subsequently announced plans to ban "explicit" material, hoping that would help it secure investors, but it reversed course after creators complained.
  • OnlyFans later replaced its CEO and founder Tim Stokely with chief marketing and communications officer Amrapali "Ami" Gan.

Details: Among the SPACs contacted by OnlyFans was Forest Road Acquisition Corp. II, co-led by former Disney execs Kevin Mayer and Tom Staggs, but the two sides are no longer in talks.

  • The SPAC, whose team includes Shaquille O'Neal as an adviser, ultimately couldn't get past the porn, per sources.
  • Forest Road's first SPAC acquired digital fitness company Beachbody at a $2.9 billion valuation, but the stock has since gotten pummeled. Its second SPAC last year raised $350 million in an IPO.

The plan: OnlyFans wants to reposition itself less as a porn platform, and more as a place for fans to connect directly with creators — like a combination of Patreon and TikTok (Kevin Mayer briefly ran the latter).

  • This would include leaning into more professional content around things like cooking, comedy, celebrities and UFC fighting. Last year it launched streaming platform OFTV as a destination that could house more professional content.
  • Such moves could help OnlyFans improve its odds of securing outside investment, and also help it protect against being shut off from payment processors.
  • Sources also say OnlyFans recently hired an executive recruiting firm to help it scale as it explores going public.

By the numbers: OnlyFans’ popularity exploded during pandemic-driven lockdowns.

  • According to an internal pitch deck compiled at the end of March 2021 and obtained by Axios, the company anticipated $1.2 billion in 2021 revenue and $2.5 billion in 2022 revenue. It's unclear if it achieved last year's projection.
  • At the time, OnlyFans creators had been paid a total of $3.2 billion, with around 16,000 earning at least $50,000 annually.

The bottom line: Porn sells, but maybe not to all potential SPAC partners.

OnlyFans and Forest Road Acquisition Corp. II  declined to comment.

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