OC&C advises on acquisition of Gizmodo Media and The Onion

14 May 2019 Consulting.us 3 min. read

Private equity firm Great Hill Partners has purchased Gizmodo Media Group and The Onion from Univision Communications Inc. Consulting firm OC&C advised Great Hill Partners on the acquisition.

In 2016, Univision Communications paid $135 million to acquire the digital assets of the former Gawker Media, which had been hammered into bankruptcy by lawsuits from Peter Thiel and Hulk Hogan. The properties included leading, millennial-focused sites across a range of categories, including technology (Gizmodo), car culture (Jalopnik), modern women’s interests (Jezebel), sports (Deadspin), lifestyle (Lifehacker), gaming (Kotaku), and African American news and culture (The Root).

Then, in January 2017, Univision acquired a 40% stake in The Onion, a popular satirical news site which also incorporates media and entertainment news site AV Club and Clickhole, which satirizes internet culture and clickbait news.

The acquisitions were part of Hispanic media–focused Univision’s strategy to target a wider, millennial market.OC&C advises on acquisition of Gizmodo Media and The Onion

The company has now firmly retreated from that strategy, refocusing on its core strength in the Spanish-language market. Univision sold its Gizmodo Media Group (GMG) and The Onion properties to private equity firm Great Hill Partners in April for an unspecified sum. People close to the deal told the Wall Street Journal that the selling price was markedly less than the $135 million price tag from 2016.

"[This] is the culmination of a very thorough process, as part of Univision’s broader strategic realignment and return to its core strengths in Hispanic media and marketing," Vince Sadusky, CEO of Univision, said. "Our aim from the outset of this process was to sell these assets as one, and we are pleased to have found a terrific buyer in Great Hill Partners that is committed to growing these properties.”

Great Hill Partners is based in Boston, and has raised over $5 billion in commitments to acquire, recapitalize, and expand companies across a wide range of sectors. The firm targets investments between $25 million to $200 million, and has previously invested and “added value” to digital and media companies such as IGN, Ziff Davis, and Recruiting.com.

The acquired digital media assets will be combined to form a new company titled G/O Media Inc., and will be headed by digital content industry veteran Jim Spanfeller, who is also a significant investor in the new company. Spanfeller previously served as CEO of Forbes.com, president of Ziff Davis Enterprise’s consumer magazine group, publisher of Inc. Magazine, and associate publisher of Playboy Enterprises Publishing Group.

“This opportunity comes at a time when the entire digital media category is beginning to be recognized again for its unique ability to meet the diverse content and delivery needs of consumers and advertisers,” said Spanfeller. “As the largest player in our space, G/O Media is in an ideal position to capitalize on this dynamic, and I am excited to collaborate with a great team that boasts an incredible track record to further expand our reach, add value to our advertisers and enrich our visitors’ lives.

Together, the former GMG and The Onion properties reach more than a third of all Americans online each month, with approximately 100 million unique visitors.

Chris Gaffney, managing partner at Great Hill Partners, added, “We are excited by growth and see a great opportunity to further scale a high-quality content producer led by an experienced digital media executive like Jim.”

Great Hill Partners was advised on the transaction by OC&C, a leading advisor to investors and corporate clients in the consumer media space. Last summer, the firm supported private equity firm Exponent with its successful acquisition of Dennis Publishing.

“We congratulate Great Hill Partners on the successful acquisition of Gizmodo Media Group and The Onion from Univision,” said a statement from the consultancy.