LONDON — The Berlin-based streetwear and lifestyle publication Highsnobiety, known for obsessively tracking sneaker drops, is weighing a potential sale after several suitors showed interest, with Bustle Digital Group emerging as one of the interested parties.
The New York Times first reported the potential sale, citing two people familiar with the matter that the media company has hired Aryeh Bourkoff’s boutique firm LionTree, a global investment and merchant banking firm focused on media, technology and telecommunications, to handle the situation.
Bourkoff was one of a group of investors alongside Karlie Kloss, Kaia Gerber, and Lewis Hamilton that purchased W magazine last year. As part of the formation of W Media, the venture formed a deal with digital-media company Bustle Digital Group, which owns brands like Nylon, Gawker and Bustle, to operate as a partner.
While not all suitors are known at this point, WWD has confirmed that BDG is one of them, with its founder Bryan Goldberg having already met with Highsnobiety.
A source close to BDG said: “BDG is actively looking for new partners and a logical merger could be Highsnobiety and Bustle Digital Group. With their recent joint venture with W, it would make sense for them to progress into men’s fashion.”
Highsnobiety declined to comment. A source confirmed that the potential sale is happening to WWD, but declined to comment further.
Founded by David Fischer as a streetwear blog launched in 2005, Highsnobiety has grown into a destination for street culture, with business spanning e-commerce, in-house fashion lines, events, and physical publications.
According to data provided by Similarweb, the U.S., the U.K., Canada, and Australia are four of its biggest markets, representing around 60 percent of visitors. WebsiteIQ revealed that Highsnobiety has on average 1.48 million unique visitors per month.
It’s been reported that the company brings in around $60 million in revenue this year. In comparison, one of its main competitors in the space Hypebeast, a listed company on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange with a market capitalization of 2.42 billion Hong Kong dollars, or $311.2 million, made 674.2 million Hong Kong dollars, or $86.68 million, for the year ended in March 2021.
Its other main competitor, Complex Media, was bought by Verizon and Hearst in 2016 in a 50-50 ownership structure. The terms of the deal were not disclosed. The Verizon-Hearst pact valued Complex at between $250 million and $300 million, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing anonymous sources.
E-commerce players that focus on street culture and emerging fashion brands have also been the target for investors. Canada’s Ssense sold a minority stake to Sequoia Capital this past June, valuing the e-tailer at $4 billion. Similarly, private equity firm The Carlyle Group in March acquired a majority stake in the British premium streetwear retailer End, which valued the retailer at 750 million pounds, or $1 billion.
Highsnobiety received $8.5 million in funding led by the U.K.-based venture capital firm Felix Capital in 2018. Highsnobiety claimed back then that it had grown 100 percent year-over-year in the previous three years.
In a recent interview with WWD, Thom Bettridge, editor in chief of Highsnobiety since 2019, said during the pandemic, the site has pivoted from “being an outlet that covers what’s going on in the world only” to “actively create cultural moments and be cultural producers ourselves.”
It launched the online exhibition project “Not in Paris” featuring brands as a way to fill the void of the canceled Paris Fashion Week Men’s and bring together brands like Dior, Fendi, Hermes, Bottega Veneta, and Rick Owens and disciplines across geographies in June 2020. Highsnobiety then gave the project a comprehensive update with its second edition in January 2021, linking collection presentations, exclusive music video releases, exhibitions, and short films under one digital roof.