Unilad sale to LadBible confirmed - staff told brand will live on but downsizing mooted

Unilad acquired by LadBible

After two weeks of heated legal action, bidding, internal strife and uncertainty at Unilad, The Drum can now confirm the social publisher has been sold to its biggest rival LadBible.

Unilad entered administration earlier this month with debts of around £10m, half of which was owed to ousted founder Alex Partridge who then sold his debt to LadBible – which made it the primary creditor over Unilad.

Administrator Leonard Curtis and executives from LadBible addressed staff at 16:30 on Tuesday after a weekend of squaring up the finer details of the deal. It was revealed that LadBible had indeed acquired the company for an undisclosed fee.

Unilad staff split across London and Manchester offices told The Drum they were nervous about what the buyout would mean and whether there would be consolidation or redundancies. Administrators informed staff that the company will not be "mothballed" but operated as an individual brand. They added they could not guarantee that there will not be eventual downsizing efforts in the works (at 200+ staff Unilad almost doubles LadBible in scale).

Before the announcement, sources in the Unilad camp complained of low morale amid the uncertainty over their futures. Access to systems was reined in and locks to the premises were changed, meanwhile, staff attempted to keep the ship afloat. The nature of the business is that if it failed to keep its Facebook content production up, its NewsFeed distribution would have been de-ranked and penalised,

Earlier in the cycle, one bidder criticised the administrator for a “manifestly unfair” process where bid deadlines were pushed back at least twice. Nonetheless, despite complaints, the acquisition has pushed through.

In the race for the title was a joint effort in from Linton Capital (whose MD is sitting as Unilad’s interim chief executive); Rocket Media and Jungle Creations. Goat Agency, DMGT, The Hook and Social Chain were also reportedly in the race.

A LadBible spokesperson told The Drum: "As of today, LadBible Group and Unilad Group are now united under the same roof. This transforms the media landscape worldwide. Bringing these brands together makes us the largest social video publisher ever, and a youth media brand to be reckoned with, having over 120 million followers across our social channels. In August alone, our combined videos were viewed 4.5bn times.

"We believe that the Unilad Group brands complement our existing offering and we can promise our audience more of the stuff they love from all the brands in the new LadBible Group family."

He added: "As we go to meet our new colleagues in London and Manchester, we want to thank the teams that make the content that so many people know and love. They’ve worked incredibly hard throughout considerable media speculation. We look forward to working together."

Furthermore, LadBible's co-founders issued statements. Solly Solomou, said: "We’re incredibly proud of this deal. We’ve transformed the media landscape globally to make LadBible Group both the world’s largest social video publisher and a massive youth media brand. Uniting these two businesses under one roof enables us to reach more young people than any other media organisation.

He said it is "both a tremendous honour and a huge responsibility" and added we are "are to communicate to a young audience about the issues that matter to them, wherever they are online”.

Arian Kalantari, also added: "In the coming weeks, we will be working on the strategy for our expanded business – no sudden decisions will be made about the structure. We’re ensuring we’ve got the right people in the right places over the next couple of months. It’s a new era with exciting times and opportunities ahead.”

Administrators have been contacted for further details on the deal.

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