Vice to layoff hundreds of staff

Vice Media, a former media darling, has announced that it plans to lay off hundreds of staff. Photo Courtesy of Vice Media Group/Website

Feb. 23 (UPI) -- Vice Media has announced plans to lay off several hundred of its 900 employees and stop publishing content online, the company announced in a staff memo Thursday.

"This decision was not made lightly," Vice Media chief Bruce Dixon wrote, adding that those affected will be "notified about next steps early next week."

Dixon said the company is transitioning to a "studio model," and added that Refinery29, another media brand owned by Vice, "will continue to operate as a standalone diversified digital publishing business, creating engaging social-first content."

"As you know, we are in advanced discussions to sell this business, and we are continuing with that process," Dixon continued. "We expect to announce more on that in the coming weeks."

The company was rescued from bankruptcy less than a year ago, having been purchased by Fortress Investment Group.

There had been speculation, and hope among staffers, that Fortress would invest in the company in an effort to restore it to its former status, but instead opted to make deep cuts to reign in spending, and reverse ongoing financial losses.

Staffers expressed dismay at the impending layoffs and frustration at the lack of any clear path forward.

Vice News executive editor Josh Visser said he had asked the company's executives to address rumors of a website closure but had not yet received a response.

"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, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Vice was founded more than 20 years ago as an alternative publication in Montreal on the strength of investments from A&E Networks, Disney and the private equity firm TPG. At its height, it was valued at $5.7 billion, but like many other high-flying media publications with high hopes, it crashed back to Earth and struggled to become profitable.