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StyleHaul is joining the growing list of YouTube networks aligning themselves with traditional media giants.
CEO Stephanie Horbaczewski confirms to The Hollywood Reporter that the fashion-focused multichannel network has agreed to sell a controlling stake to European entertainment company RTL Group for $107 million. The deal values StyleHaul at $151.4 million with performance incentives that, if met, would boost its valuation above $200 million.
RTL also plans to invest $20 million in StyleHaul to fund the company’s expansion. The transaction, which is expected to close at the end of the month, ups RTL’s stake in StyleHaul from 22.3 percent to 93.6 percent, with the option to acquire the remaining equity from StyleHaul management and employees.
RTL, which owns a number of international television and radio stations, led StyleHaul’s $6 million funding round in May 2013. Parent company Bertelsmann is also a StyleHaul investor and led the company’s $6.5 million round in February 2013 through its digital media investment arm. In total, the company has raised nearly $17 million since 2011.
“RTL has been an incredible supporter of me and my team for the last year,” Horbaczewski says. “It’s the right home for the company.”
Horbaczewski says that she was in the midst of raising the company’s next round of funding not long after Disney’s up to $950 million acquisition of Maker Studios when she was approached with an acquisition offer. She declines to name the suitor but calls the process “very robust” and confirms that StyleHaul received multiple offers. In the end, the company will build on the existing relationship it has already established with RTL and CEO Guillaume de Posch, which Horbaczewski says represents “the right fit for us culturally.”
“We all know content is king, and RTL has proven dominance across the content landscape,” she continues. “As much as we’ve grown, to be able to be plugged into such a fantastic global force that RTL is will be game changing for us.”
Horbaczewski, a former marketing executive for Saks Fifth Avenue, founded StyleHaul in 2011 to establish a network for YouTubers in the fashion vertical and is named for the so-called haul videos that beauty and fashion vloggers post to showcase products they’ve purchased. The company has since expanded onto multiple platforms and now works with nearly 5,000 content creators — such as iJustine and Zoella — across fashion, fitness, beauty and lifestyle verticals that combined exceed 199 million subscribers.
Horbaczewski says StyleHaul’s revenue is on track to triple from 2013 to 2014 as the company has focused on branded campaigns with advertisers such as Maybelline and L’Oreal Paris across social platforms. The company has also expanded into original programming through a multiyear, multiseries development deal with FremantleMedia North America, a division of RTL. StyleHaul tapped Paramount digital executive Mia Goldwyn in April to lead scripted and unscripted series development as chief content officer, and her first order of business was acquiring the exclusive rights to Lisa Kudrow‘s web series Web Therapy.
StyleHaul, which will continue to operate independently out of its Hollywood headquarters, has about 60 employees and also has offices in New York, Chicago and London. The company has been aggressive about growing internationally, launching Latin American site StyleHaul Mundo and recently expanding into Singapore to work with brands and talent in the region.
RTL’s de Posch said in a statement that acquiring StyleHaul aligns with the company’s plans to expand its online video business.
“Our acquisition of StyleHaul accelerates this strategy — Stephanie and her team are among the best in the business at executing branded and premium content programmes, across multiple platforms, with video being at the core,” he added. “Additionally, StyleHaul already works closely with RTL Group’s content production arm, FremantleMedia, and we look forward to growing that relationship. StyleHaul, together with their portfolio of content creators and best-in-class video content, will enhance RTL Group’s presence in online video.”
StyleHaul’s sale comes during a hot time for YouTube networks in the wake of Disney’s Maker acquisition, which was followed up by Fullscreen’s sale to The Chernin Group and AT&T’s Otter Media.
Nov. 3, 8:55 a.m. Updated with additional details about RTL’s investment in StyleHaul
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