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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Private equity's newest political headache came last Thursday when G/O Media shut down Splinter, a left-wing publication with 7 full-time employees. One day later, Elizabeth Warren placed the blame squarely on G/O Media owner Great Hill Partners.

Why it matters: Warren does have a plan to change private equity, but it wouldn't directly impact Great Hill Partners' ownership of G/O Media.

Context: After G/O Media shut down Splinter News, Warren tweeted: "Private equity firms are sucking value out of our companies, putting people out of work, and wiping out newspapers and digital news outlets like @Splinter_News. I have a plan to hold these firms accountable."

  • Great Hill formed G/O Media this past spring via the purchase of Gizmodo Media Group and The Onion from Univision. Splinter was part of Gizmodo, alongside several other sites that Univision had acquired via the Gawker bankruptcy (Deadspin, Jezebel, Kotaku, etc.). No pricing terms were disclosed, although Great Hill reportedly paid less than the $135 million check Univision had originally cut.
  • Great Hill did disclose that its purchase was all-equity. Managing partner Christopher Gaffney confirmed that with me yesterday, adding that there was no assumed debt, nor had any been put on G/O Media since the purchase.

Details: Warren's plan focuses on leverage, making private equity funds liable for portfolio company debt. G/O Media has no debt, thus wouldn't be affected by that plank of Warren's plan.

  • To be sure, this is where Great Hill obviously does have some strategic culpability, since it hired the executives overseeing Splinter's staff.
  • There also may have been search and social media algorithm changes outside of both of their control.
  • In terms of jobs, G/O told Splinter's 7 employees that there were 9 open editorial positions within the company, and that it hoped to enable internal transfers. But it's unclear if Splinter's staffers are qualified for those jobs. Moreover, editors of other G/O sites are said to have final say on hiring, so it's more about job opportunities than actual jobs.
  • Spinter's ex-editor didn't return a request for comment.

What they're saying: Gaffney puts the blame for Splinter's failure on the site's audience declines, which he says fell 75% from its Univision-owned peak, rather on than a lack of financial performance. "It had nothing to do with making money, because we co-mingle the audience for ad sales."

Splinter illustrates the fundamental flaw of one-size-fits-all policy prescriptions for private equity, whether from Warren or anyone else.

  • Same goes for universal criticisms or plaudits.

The bottom line: Private equity did kill Splinter, in the sense that Great Hill pulled the plug. But it shouldn't bear sole blame for the underlying disease that has spread throughout media, including among both those that do and don't have private equity backing.

Go deeper: Private equity takeovers result in significant job losses

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect the company name is Splinter, not Splinter News.

Go deeper

32 mins ago - Health

India crosses 1 billion COVID vaccinations milestone

A health worker inoculates a COVID-19 vaccine dose to a man wearing face mask of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Beawar, India, in September. Photo: Sumit Saraswat/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced Thursday that the country's health workers have now administered more than 1 billion COVID-19 vaccines doses.

Of note: While this is a significant milestone for the country of 1.4 billion, which has been devastated by the coronavirus, only about 30% of the eligible population has been fully vaccinated against the virus, per AP. Roughly 75% has received at least one dose.

Trump says he plans to launch new social media network in 2022

Photo: Chris Delmas/AFP via Getty Images

Former President Trump on Wednesday announced plans to launch a social media network called "Truth Social," and that it would go public via a SPAC.

Why it matters: Most ex-presidents are focused on their legacies, by creating presidential libraries or engaging in philanthropic endeavors. Trump, however, remains consumed by social media.

Beauty giant Coty Cosmetics looking to sell its own branded products

Coty Cosmetics CEO Sue Nabi. Photo: Axios on HBO

Coty Cosmetics CEO Sue Nabi tells Axios the beauty giant will “probably” introduce Coty-branded products one day.

Why it matters: Coty produces some of the world’s most popular fragrances, skin care products and color cosmetics on behalf of other well-known brands, but has shied away from producing its own branded products.