Updated Apr 18, 2024 - Business

Essence's parent to buy Refinery29 from Vice Media

Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Refinery29

Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Refinery29

Essence magazine's corporate parent Sundial Media Group has agreed to buy women's lifestyle company Refinery29 from Vice Media, the company said Thursday.

Why it matters: The deal offers Refinery29 a lifeline after a tumultuous few years under the Vice Media brand.

Zoom in: Sundial Media Group owns Essence Ventures, a venture capital firm focused on the cultural and lifestyle needs of women of color and the home to Essence magazine.

  • The acquisition of Refinery29 will help Sundial and Essence extend their reach to content companies that cut across culture and commerce, Sundial said in a statement.
  • Refinery29 will operate as a stand-alone business within Sundial Media Group.
  • Longtime Vice Media executive Cory Haik has been named CEO of Refinery29.
  • Deal terms weren't announced.

Zoom out: Essence Ventures formed in 2017 and expanded when it bought Essence Communications from Time Inc. the following year, a purchase that included the magazine.

  • In 2021, Essence Ventures acquired Beautycon, the event platform for beauty enthusiasts.

Catch up quick: Vice Media bought Refinery29 in 2019, just as it was beginning to face more serious pressure from its own corporate and financial challenges.

  • Vice was bought out of bankruptcy last year by a private investment firm, leaving the future of its owned and operated businesses and publications uncertain.
  • In the wake of that deal, it sold off parts of its portfolio, including i-D Magazine.

What they're saying: "This is the end of a chapter for Vice. We have shifted to a studio model — producing and providing best-in-class content to distributors around the world," a spokesperson said.

  • "Vice has a multiaward-winning film, documentary and television production group, VICE TV in partnership with A+E, and a creative agency that continues groundbreaking work for some of the world's best-known brands."

By the numbers: Refinery29's all-stock sale to Vice Media valued the publication at roughly $400 million. At the time, it brought in roughly $100 million in annual revenue.

  • Last year, Refinery29 earned less than half of that revenue annually, per a source familiar.
  • But the publication, which is less reliant today on scaled traffic from social media, is profitable.
  • The company five years ago had over 300 writers across multiple countries, including Germany. Today, it has around 100 employees total across the U.S. and the U.K., the source added.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include a Vice statement.

Go deeper