Digital media companies are raking in investment capital, and Thrillist Media Group is the latest benefactor. The company, which is divided into nightlife and food-centric digital site Thrillist and e-tailer JackThreads, has received a cash infusion of $54 million. According to Thrillist Media founder and chief executive officer Ben Lerer, Axel Springer took an undisclosed minority stake in the media site, while Oak Investment Partners and SBNY invested in the men’s commerce site.
Although Lerer could not disclose specifics of the deal, he noted that the $54 million sum was “not overwhelmingly skewed” toward either brand.
This story first appeared in the October 1, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“The two businesses are going to exist side by side but independently,” he explained, adding that Thrillist and JackThreads will draw up agreements to work together in the future. Still, the split is interesting, as it raises the question of whether content and commerce can actually sit under one roof.
Lerer explained that it “made more sense” to split the two sites, as investors that specialize in either retail or media were more interested in one business over the other. He added that separating them would be better for both in terms of growth in the long-term.
Lerer started Thrillist 10 years ago, and acquired men’s wear brand JackThreads in 2010, turning the lifestyle site into a hybrid e-commerce play.
As part of the deal, he will remain ceo of Thrillist and become chairman of JackThreads. Mark Walker, who is president of commerce at JackThreads, will take on the role of ceo.
In May, Lerer told WWD that the Thrillist Media Group would likely realize more than $100 million in revenues this year, with about 75 percent of that coming from commerce and the rest from advertising.
With Wednesday’s investment, Lerer said Thrillist would expand its editorial reach beyond food and drink coverage to include travel and other lifestyle topics, such as entertainment, health and sex and dating — all core to its male audience, especially the last two. The company will also build on its video business, its content studio and its social media partnerships. The series A investment marks Axel Springer’s second big deal this week; it acquired an 88 percent stake in Business Insider on Tuesday for $343 million.
Lerer, who is also the managing director of venture capital firm Lerer Hippeau Ventures, said Axel invested in that company, too.
“We’re quite close with Axel,” said Lerer, who wasn’t using the royal “we,” but instead was referring to his father Ken Lerer, who is managing partner at the venture capital firm. Lerer Hippeau was an early investor in Business Insider, and in the deal with Axel, Ken Lerer received a seat on the boards of both Business Insider and Thrillist.
“We share a lot of common philosophies,” said Ben Lerer, referring to Axel.
Lerer, who has worked with his father on early stage investing in buzzy companies such as Birchbox, Buzzfeed, Warby Parker and Refinery29, pointed to the Business Insider deal as indicative of where things are headed.
“There has been a shift in the way traditional media views digital media,” Lerer said, citing NBCUniversal’s $200 million investments in Buzzfeed and Vox Media in August. “I don’t know what the future is going to look like…but [those deals] are yet another signal that there will be more to come.”