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Vox Media and Group Nine agree to merge

Vox Media has agreed to buy Group Nine Media, a deal that will combine two major digital media publishers as the industry further consolidates, the companies announced Monday evening.

Jim Bankoff, the chief executive of Vox Media, said in an interview Monday that the combined companies would be “significantly greater than the sum of the parts.”

He will serve as chief executive and chairman of the publisher, which will retain the Vox Media name, while Ben Lerer, founder and chief executive of Group Nine, will join Vox Media’s board of directors, the companies said.

Vox Media, co-founded by Mr. Bankoff in 2011, is the publisher of Vox.com, The Verge and SB Nation, as well as New York review and its related websites, which it purchased in 2019. Group Nine operates lifestyle sites PopSugar, NowThis, the Dodo, Thrillist and Seeker. The combined company, which has nearly 350 million social media followers and six billion monthly video views, is expected to generate more than $700 million in revenue and $100 million in pretax profits next year, according to two people familiar with financial details.

Mr. Lerer said his talks with Mr. Bankoff began in earnest this summer. Group Nine had previously held discussions with Vox Media and other companies about a merger through a special purpose acquisition company, or after-sales servicewhich he had created with the intention of going public.

“I felt like I got an incredible education, not just on the skin, but actually I got to see inside so many companies,” Lerer said, adding : “It was clear that Vox was the best, I would say by really head and shoulders.

The deal, signed Monday evening, is an all-stock transaction that is expected to close early next year. Terms were not disclosed. The new Vox Media would be one of the largest media companies in the United States, with about 2,000 employees, Mr. Bankoff said, adding that Group Nine’s websites complement those of Vox Media, adding that the audience of Group Nine was younger.

“Group Nine is extraordinary on a social level, where there is so much growth,” Mr. Bankoff said. “Vox Media is, for example, amazing when it comes to podcasting and has a great presence on our websites.” Both companies, he said, have robust studio divisions: “I don’t think there’s a major premium streaming service that we’re not in business with.”

Digital media companies have looked for ways to repay investors and compete with Google and Facebook, which dominate online advertising. Recent consolidations include BuzzFeed’s purchases of HuffPost and Complex Networks, and Vice Media’s acquisition of the lifestyle publisher. Refinery29. And Vox Media may not be done moving, whether through new acquisitions or going public, Mr. Bankoff said.

“Going public may or may not make sense depending on market conditions and other factors, and we will continue to review that,” he said. The Wall Street Journal first reported advanced talks between the two companies.

BuzzFeed, known for its social media-ready lifestyle journalism and news reporting, went public on December 6 by merging with a so-called blank check company. Results so far have been disappointing: its stock, which opened the first day of trading at $10.95, closed Monday at $6.25.