Vice Media is said to be headed for bankruptcy

NEW YORK – Vice, the brash digital media disrupter that charmed giants like Disney and Fox into investing before a stunning crash landing, is preparing to file for bankruptcy, according to two people with knowledge of its operations.

The filing could come in the coming weeks, according to three people familiar with the matter who were not authorised to discuss the potential bankruptcy on the record.

The company has been looking for a buyer, and still might find one, to avoid declaring bankruptcy.

More than five companies have expressed interest in acquiring Vice, according to a person briefed on the discussions.

The chances of that, however, are growing increasingly slim, said one of the people with knowledge of the potential bankruptcy.

A bankruptcy filing would be a bleak coda to the tumultuous story of Vice, a new media interloper that sought to supplant the media establishment before persuading it to invest hundreds of millions of dollars.

In 2017, after a funding round from the private equity firm TPG, Vice was worth US$5.7 billion (S$7.6 billion). But today, by most accounts, it is worth a tiny fraction of that.

In the event of a bankruptcy, Vice’s largest debt holder, Fortress Investment Group, could end up controlling the company, said one of the people.

Vice would continue operating normally and run an auction to sell the company over a 45-day period, with Fortress in pole position as the most likely acquirer.

Unlike Vice’s other investors, which have included Disney and Fox, Fortress holds senior debt, which means it gets paid out first in the event of a sale.

Disney and Fox, which have already written down their investments, are not getting a return, the person said.

“Vice Media Group has been engaged in a comprehensive evaluation of strategic alternatives and planning,” Vice said in a statement on Monday.

“The company, its board and stakeholders continue to be focused on finding the best path for the company.”