Panicked Vice staffers warned to back up stories — and execs won't deny rumors it's shutting down

Vice Media staffers were hit with an anonymous message last night to back up their stories while they still had a chance, warning that the news site was about to disappear. Then, this morning, they were not able to download their emails.

But when panicked editors met with Vice execs today to see what was going on, they were met with silence on the subject, which was "very upsetting," according to Vice News' editor Josh Visser, via Hollywood Reporter.

"CEO and senior leadership is not taking multiple opportunities to deny the rumors, which is bad," said a staffer, via Mediaite. "It's apocalyptic."

From The Hollywood Reporter:

Visser told staff a plan he had proposed to restructure the newsroom had essentially been rejected by management and that, even though it is almost March, he still does not have a budget for the year. Staff asked Visser about whether their next paycheck would clear and if their Vice laptops may become disabled by the company. "I don't know more than you guys besides being able to read faces and notice who is not replying to my messages," Visser said. …

Vice Media filed for bankruptcy in May of last year, canceled its flagship show Vice News Tonight weeks before, and pledged cost cuts and layoffs during restructuring. Last July, Vice inked a deal to sell itself to a group led by Fortress Investment LLC, Soros Fund Management and Monroe Capital, ending a lengthy sales process.

"It looks pretty apocalyptic out there," Visser told staff. A Vice Media spokesperson and a spokesperson for Fortress, Gordon Runte, did not respond to multiple requests for comment from THR.

And from Mediaite:

Employees hoped for some clarity at the weekly news meeting held at noon on Thursdays, but received none. Those who attended the meeting were left in a state of confusion.

"It really seems up in the air right now," one employee said. "Some people are saying they wouldn't possibly delete everything, but I personally have seen how depraved and stupid senior management are too many times and I'm preparing for the worst." …

Vice was founded in 1994 in Montreal, Canada as a punk magazine covering music and other subcultures. The magazine's covers often favored nudity, drugs, and blood. By 2017, Vice had grown into a sprawling media empire, boasting a popular website, a TV and production division, and an ad agency. A funding round from private equity firm TPG, which invests regularly in media properties, valued Vice at $5.7 billion.

Then everything came crashing down. The once-high-flying media business that afforded its CEO a $23 million mansion struggled to turn a profit, and a bad climate for digital media hastened its collapse. Last year, Vice filed for bankruptcy. In July, former lenders acquired the company in a deal that valued it at $350 million. A round of layoffs followed in November.

Just last month, "unbiased" news site The Messenger shut down after it had launched just one year earlier with $50 million in funding.

UPDATE – 12:59PM, 2-22-2024: The New York Times reports that Vice Media is planning a layoff, rather than a shut down, in the upcoming week.

Executives at Vice Media are planning to lay off hundreds of more than 900 employees over the next week, eliminating staff from its digital publishing division, according to three people familiar with the matter.

The cuts will be the latest in a series of severe cutbacks that the company has endured in recent years, winnowing the globe-spanning digital colossus to a husk of its former self. Over the past half-decade, Vice has had near annual layoffs and mounting losses, and has filed for bankruptcy, making it the poster child for the battered digital-media industry.

When Vice emerged from bankruptcy last year, some observers hoped its new owners — a consortium led by the private-equity firm Fortress Investment Group — would reinvest to return the company to growth.

Instead, Fortress has decided to make sweeping cuts, as part of an attempt to stem the endless tide of red ink. The company is planning to inform employees of its new business strategy in the next week. …