Unilad administration latest: bidders emerge for debt-ridden media company

Bidders begin to circle Unilad

Two bidders are already fighting it out for debt-stricken Unilad which today formally started the administration process in court, The Drum has learned.

Unilad's publishing company Bentley Harrington is being pursued for over £6m by debtors including founder Alex Partridge and HMRC for £5m and £1.5m respectively.

A source told The Drum that offers have been tabled for the fourth largest publisher on Facebook which could save it from liquidation.

One document seen by The Drum outlined a £10m joint bid from Linton Capital, whose managing partner is Unilad’s interim chief executive David Sefton, and Rocket Sports Media, a digital publisher of sport and entertainment websites.

Sefton is familiar with the inner workings of Unilad having been parachuted in to run the company when its chief executive, Sam Bentley, stepped down following a misconduct investigation in June.

Its co-bidder Rocket Sports Media describes itself as a "network of 300 football news creators who have 250m followers across YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram".

This party will bid £10m for the company on the condition that the fee also pays off the £6.5m owed to HMRC and Harrington. It said it can close the deal in the next seven to 10 days. If the offer falls short of what the administrator Leonard Curtis values the assets at, Linton Capital will seek further funding to participate in an open auction.

It said it had already drawn up a list of employees it would keep on board in the event of a deal and that it would aim to retain the "majority" of staff. The Drum understands Unilad employs around 200 people.

A rival offer has been lodged by global investment vehicle Alpha Blue Ocean which is proposing a £10m loan with a 12-month maturity and a 12% interest rate. The London-based firm was founded 14 months ago and claims to have been involved in deals totalling €900M.

Administrator Leonard Curtis issued a statement to The Drum: "Leonard Curtis Business Rescue & Recovery can confirm that the web-based publishing business Bentley Harrington Limited was placed into administration today (4th October 2018) with Andrew Poxon and Andrew Duncan being appointed joint administrators.

"The business, which trades as Unilad, has substantial social media presence - including 60m followers, 1bn weekly reach, and 4bn monthly video views across nine channels."

It added: "The joint administrators are seeking offers for the business in order to preserve jobs and maximise the return to creditors. It is understood that the company employs in excess of 200 people."

The main Unilad account boasts 39 million Facebook followers, 2.5 million on Instagram and 192,000 on Twitter. Combined it claims to have 60 million fans and says its viral videos reach one billion eyes a week. This substantial social media presence that may prove desirable to incoming bidders.

UPDATE: Lad Bible has bought Unilad founder's Alex Partidge's debt.

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