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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

When Yahoo bought Tumblr in 2013 for $1.1 billion, its press release included a "promise not to screw it up." We could almost call that a tell, except it was really Yahoo asking if 4 in a row could count as a straight.

Why it matters: For Verizon, selling Tumblr was a fire sale for tax purposes. It also was another way to unload media assets that don't seem to interest Hans Vestberg, who became CEO after the Yahoo purchase. Yes, Yahoo screwed it up. But Verizon did no better.

Context:

  • Yahoo wrote down nearly half of that purchase price just 3 years later and then sold itself entirely to Verizon in mid-2017. In short, Yahoo never managed to leverage Tumblr's data in the way that Facebook did with Instagram ⁠— a pretty good comp given the timing, price and sector.
  • Verizon yesterday sold Tumblr to Automattic, the parent company of blogging platform WordPress. No financial terms were disclosed, but multiple sources tell Axios that the price was around $3 million. Or, put another way, well less than 1% of what Yahoo originally paid.
  • Automattic also will take on the entire Tumblr workforce, with a source saying that puts its post-close costs at around 20x the purchase price.
  • Tumblr still hosts around 450 million blogs.

What they're saying: We hear there were other bidders, although it's unclear if Pornhub was among them. The smut streamer had expressed interest back in May, after Verizon banned porn from Tumblr and put the business up for sale.

  • In terms of comps, the best I can come up with is Bebo, a social network AOL bought for $850 million in 2008, which it then sold 2 years later for just $10 million to a private equity firm (which later sold it to Bebo's founder for around $1 million).

For Automattic, which is viewed by Wall Street as an IPO candidate, it's about adding a consumer-facing business and large existing user base (or at least just Taylor Swift).

  • Axios' Sara Fischer notes that Autommatic rival Squarespace, which also wants to go public in the next year or two, has spent big money on consumer-facing marketing campaigns to beef up its numbers. Adding Tumblr helps Automattic keep pace there.

The bottom line: One of the fastest ways to lose $1 billion in value is to be sold for just over $1 billion.

Go deeper: An exclusive club of media unicorns survives media industry turmoil

Go deeper

29 mins ago - World

Blinken to visit Ukraine as Russia invasion threat looms

Blinken (R) with President Zelensky. Photo: Efrem Lukatsky/Pool via Getty

Secretary of State Antony Tony Blinken will travel to Ukraine on Tuesday as the country faces an ongoing threat of Russian invasion.

Driving the news: Blinken will meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, as well as officials at the U.S. embassy in Kyiv to discuss contingency planning. He'll then travel to Berlin to meet German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and attend a meeting of the "Transatlantic Quad" — France, Germany, the U.K. and U.S.

Updated 35 mins ago - World

At least 3 dead after Tonga volcano eruption and tsunami

A satellite image of the explosive eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano on Saturday. Photo: UNICEF/NOAA

At least three people are confirmed to have died in Tonga following the undersea volcanic eruption that sent tsunami waves toward the island nation and across the Pacific over the weekend, officials said Tuesday.

The big picture: Officials reported major damage along the western coast of the main island of Tongatapu, where the capital, Nuku'alofa, was covered in ash and dust, including on the runway of the airport. Officials in Tonga confirmed three deaths in the country's first official statement since the crisis began.

Mike Allen, author of AM
2 hours ago - Economy & Business

Charted: GOP surged as Biden slumped

Expand chart
Reproduced from Gallup. (Independents were asked their party leaning.) Chart: Axios Visuals

Gallup polling found a huge shift in party preference over the course of 2021, from a 9-point Democratic advantage in the first quarter to a 5-point Republican edge in the fourth quarter.

Why it matters: It's the biggest swing in one calendar year for Gallup's 30 years of tracking.