James Murdoch’s new holding company has agreed to buy a minority stake in Vice Media Group, according to people briefed on the deal, as he looks to make his own mark in media after the breakup of his family’s entertainment empire.
Murdoch this year created Lupa Systems as an investment vehicle to assemble a new portfolio of media companies, using his $2 billion in proceeds from the $71-billion sale of most of his family’s 21st Century Fox empire to Walt Disney Co.
The size of Lupa’s stake in Vice was not disclosed, but two people briefed on the transaction said the Murdoch investment was small. The younger son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch has been on the board of Vice — a sprawling digital media group aimed at millennials — for several years.
The investment came alongside Vice’s mostly-stock acquisition of Refinery29, a lifestyle website aimed at young women, according to people familiar with the deal. Lupa Systems’ investment valued the newly combined Vice Media Group, including Refinery29, at about $4 billion, these people said.
James Murdoch, who was previously Fox’s chief executive, had earlier telegraphed his plans to branch off from the family business to pursue his own ventures. His older brother, Lachlan, is executive chairman of Fox Corp., which was formed after the Disney sale.
Rupert Murdoch’s six children each received about $2 billion from the sale of his entertainment businesses to Disney. James Murdoch set up Lupa with the intention of investing his proceeds, according to people briefed on his thinking. His acquisitions through Lupa this year have included stakes in the Tribeca Film Festival and in comic book publisher Artists, Writers & Artisans.
The Murdochs’ 21st Century Fox invested in Vice in 2013, funding Vice’s push into Asia through Fox’s Star India TV network, which James Murdoch helped manage. He is also a friend of Jesse Angelo, the former New York Post publisher who joined Vice this summer as head of its news and entertainment business.
Vice has struggled in recent years after initially storming the media scene with its edgy videos and online content that attracted young consumers. A journalistic high point came with its production of a video documenting the 2017 far-right rally in Charlottesville, Va. The company was valued as high as $5.7 billion by private equity group TPG in 2017, but this year Disney wrote off its entire Vice stake. Peers in digital media have seen their valuations slashed as the online media sector has struggled to find a sustainable business model to match its ambitions.
Vice declined to comment. Murdoch did not respond to requests for comment.
Nancy Dubuc became chief executive of Vice last year, succeeding Shane Smith, with a mission to turn the company around. She previously ran A+E Networks.
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