New York Magazine to Merge With Vox Media

THR Jim Benkoff_05102018_HWR_Jim_Benkoff-185-at_worked - THR - H 2018
Annie Tritt

Pam Wasserstein will continue to lead the New York business as president of Vox Media.

In a move that unites a traditional media stalwart with a new media upstart, New York Magazine's owner has agreed to merge with Vox Media. 

The all-stock deal, which is expected to close this fall, will see Vox Media CEO Jim Bankoff lead the combined company. Pam Wasserstein, whose father Bruce bought New York in 2004 and launched New York Media, will continue to run the magazine and its various digital brands as president of Vox Media. She will also join the company's board of directors. 

"I have long admired what Pam and the New York Media team have built, especially their ability to shape conversations with some of the most relevant and ambitious work in digital, print, and events," Bankoff said Tuesday in a statement. "This combination puts Vox Media in an unparalleled position to lead the media industry forward by focusing on the highest-quality offerings, most robust business models and strongest company culture."

Through the purchase, Vox Media is acquiring a storied print magazine as well as its many sites, including The Cut, Vulture and Grub Street, adding to a portfolio that already includes several digital brands, a podcast network and a film and TV production arm. 

Wasserstein had been exploring a sale of the business, which underwent a round of layoffs earlier in March as it dealt with losses, for more than a year. Bankoff told The New York Times, which first reported the news, that there would not be editorial layoffs or the shuttering of publications as part of the deal. Vox Media is keeping David Haskell in place as editor in chief of New York, reporting to Wasserstein. Vox publisher Melissa Bell will continue to report to Bankoff. 

"We have drawn inspiration from Vox Media, watching their growth trajectory and success in developing premium editorial brands and leading the industry in areas like podcasting and entertainment," said Wasserstein. "As I began talking with Jim about what the future might look like together, it quickly became apparent that our companies pair incredibly well. We share core values — above all, a commitment to journalistic excellence — and each bring complementary areas of expertise to the enterprise. In this partnership, I’m looking forward to creating a new kind of media company with him and our combined teams." 

New York was founded in 1968 and has, over the years, expanded into new lines of business like e-commerce (through The Strategist), digital subscriptions and consumer events. Vox Media, meanwhile, started in 2005 as sports media site SportsBlogs. Bankoff joined the company in 2008 and rebranded it as Vox Media after its 2011 acquisition of Engadget. The move allowed him to expand into tech (The Verge), food (through the acquisition of the Cubed Network) and news and politics (Vox). 

Both companies have, in recent years, expanded into podcasting and film and television. Vox Media is expected to take advantage of New York Media's expertise in the e-commerce space, while New York Media will utilize the production resources build up within Vox Media Studios. 

The Times reported that Vox Media, which has raised more than $300 million in venture funding at $1 billion valuation, had $185 million in profit last year and is on track to exceed $300  million in revenue by 2020. Bankoff told the Times that the company will remain profitable with the addition of New York Media, which is taking a minority stake in Vox Media.   

"There has never been a more thrilling or challenging time in media," Bankoff and Wasserstein said in a joint blog post announcing the deal, a reference to layoffs and deflating valuations across both the traditional and new media industries. "Technology and evolving consumer habits are creating vast new opportunities and spurring industry consolidation. We’ve observed a spate of mergers and acquisitions in our sector and have often been struck by their lackluster rationales and ambitions. Too many deals are done to buy some time or quickly change a narrative if a company has failed to innovate."

They continued, "By contrast, this combination is solely about leadership, growth, and opportunity. Two companies that are already strong — creatively, financially, and culturally — are coming together to be even stronger, to serve and delight audiences and customers with a fuller, more diverse portfolio of offerings, and to be a place where the most talented professionals can do their best work in an environment that respects them and their values. We’re incredibly grateful and excited to have this opportunity to get the future of our industry right."