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Vox Media CEO Jim Bankoff . Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Vox Media, which houses sites like Vox.com, Eater and SB Nation, has signed a deal to acquire Group Nine Media, the digital company home to brands like NowThis, The Dodo, PopSugar, Thrillist and Seeker, the company said Monday.

Why it matters: The merger will create a digital media behemoth. Both companies have acquired major digital franchises in the past year to bolster their scale ahead of the combination.

Details: Vox Media co-founder and CEO Jim Bankoff will be the CEO and chair of the new combined company.

  • Group Nine founder and CEO Ben Lerer will join the board of Vox Media "and maintain a presence at the company to help drive key strategic initiatives and advise on commercial and corporate development," per a statement.

In a memo to staff sent earlier Monday, Vox Media CEO Jim Bankoff said the business rationale behind the merger is "to grow revenue, increase scale, and combine these incredibly powerful and complementary portfolios."

  • "Together we will be an even stronger, more financially sustainable company that can invest more in our products and our people," he noted. Bankoff noted that none of the companies editorial brands would change.
  • A team from both companies "will begin developing a thoughtful plan to integrate functions where it makes sense to do so," Bankoff wrote.  
  • The deal was first reported by The Wall Street Journal, which noted that Vox Media shareholders would own 75% of the combined company.
  • LionTree acted as financial advisor to Vox Media and White & Case LLP acted as its outside legal advisor, per a statement. Code Advisors is serving as Group Nine's financial advisor and Latham & Watkins is serving as its legal advisor.

Be smart: Group Nine Media announced that it had formed its own SPAC last year, and that the SPAC could be used as a vehicle to take another company public with it.

  • As Axios has previously noted, the company has until January 2023 to identify a company that it would take public with it.
  • In his note to staff Monday, Bankoff said, "[W]e have no immediate plans to go public, although we’ll always continue to evaluate opportunities that are in the best interest of all of our stakeholders, including our employees."
  • In the official deal announcement the company noted, that the deal is "outside of the Group Nine SPAC (Group Nine Acquisition Corp.), which is a completely separate entity."
  • Axios reported earlier this year that Lerer told staff in a company-wide meeting that the company expects to be profitable this year and will bring in an estimated $200 million in revenue.

The big picture: The deal follows an intense period of consolidation in the digital media space, as digital giants vie to compete with internet giants like Google and Facebook.

  • BuzzFeed acquired Complex last week when it became the first digital media company in the modern era to go public via a SPAC. Early trading has shown that investors are somewhat skeptical of how the digital media company will fair on a public market.
  • IAC's Dotdash acquired Meredith last month in a $2.7 billion deal.
  • Penske Media acquired the brands from Hollywood entertainment company MRC via a joint venture deal last year.
  • BDG Media (formerly Bustle Digital Group) intends to go public via a SPAC next year.
  • Forbes announced a deal to go public via a SPAC earlier this year.

What's next: The deal expected to close in early 2022, pending regulatory approval.

Go deeper

Jan 11, 2022 - Economy & Business

Women take top business roles at news outlets

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Several women were named to top business positions at news companies in the past week, adding to a broader trend of women assuming top editorial roles at news companies in the past year.

Why it matters: Business leaders tend to oversee departments that are critical to the mission of news companies, like revenue, marketing, communications and human resources.

Fayetteville's AcreTrader raises $40M for growth

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

AcreTrader is banking on the tangible asset of farmland over the vapor that is cryptocurrency.

What's happening: The Fayetteville fintech company raised $40 million in its Series B investment, led by Anthemis Group of New York.

  • Several existing investors — including Steuart and Tom Walton's RZC Investments — also participated in the series.
Updated 4 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Bomb cyclone prompts blizzard warnings from Virginia to Maine

Computer model projection showing the intense storm off of Cape Cod on Jan 29, 2022, with heavy snow and strong winds lashing the coastline. (Weatherbell.com)

Blizzard warnings are in effect for 11 million people from coastal Virginia to eastern Maine as a historic winter storm is set to slam the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast beginning Friday.

Why it matters: The storm will bring hazards ranging from zero visibility amid hurricane force wind gusts and heavy snow, to coastal flooding that will erode vulnerable beaches and threaten property from the Jersey shore to coastal Massachusetts.

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