It’s officially Pride Month and the future of Out magazine, one of the only LGBTQ outlets in the country, may be in jeopardy.
After a dramatic year that has included a staff exodus, stonewalling of freelancers, bringing on a new editor in chief and staffers, pay cuts and a lawsuit, all first reported by WWD, then the sudden resignation of the chief executive officer and the threatened resignation of the new editor in chief, the LGTBQ magazine could have one problem too many.
The events have all taken place since Out and other assets previously owned by Here Media were bought in 2017 by Oreva Capital, an investment company founded by Adam Levin, and put under the new holding company Pride Media. Levin has been promising in recent weeks an infusion of capital for Out that has yet to materialize, according to sources. At least three deadlines for the money, set to pay freelancers who contributed to the June/July issue and now needed to meet upcoming demands and vendor payments, have passed, including one on Monday. Phillip Picardi, the editor in chief who former Pride ceo Nathan Coyle lured from Teen Vogue, is said to be well on his way out of the magazine, along with most, if not all, of his staff. If operations continue as they are, it’s being speculated that the end of summer could coincide with the end of Out in print, not least considering that the most recent June/July issue almost failed to come out for lack of financing.
There is worry that even planned events at the end of June around Pride Month — a must for a magazine created by and for the LGTBQ community for nearly 30 years — are at risk, since bills for vendors are due upfront and there is said to be no money yet available for their payment. Again, Levin has told staff that there would be a cash injection, but it has yet to materialize. Even if money does come through at some point, another financial hurdle seems likely and current staff is thought to have lost trust in the company.
Levin told WWD that Pride plans to have freelancers and vendors paid in full by the end of this week and it will then be back to “paying any freelancers in the normal course of business.”
Still, there has been internal talk of and planning for further budget cuts around Out, including going to an all-freelance model. Levin denied there were any such plans. Nevertheless, speculation around the possible demise of Out, at least in its current iteration, is starting in earnest.
There may be a buyer interested in coming to the rescue, however.
The founder of Celebrity Page TV is said to have been in talks with Levin to either acquire Out/Pride or invest with the goal of acquiring it outright in the months to come. While Levin is said to have been initially open to an investment, and even put a price tag of $20 million on the assets, it’s thought that talks have become difficult as access and transparency in order to properly evaluate a deal has become an issue. A representative of Celebrity Page TV could not be reached.
Levin for his part denied outright that there was any talk of selling the company “right now” and said that Pride “just closed a new round of funding from existing investors.” He declined to specify the amount or the investors, saying an announcement is planned for next week.
“The company has no intentions of selling a controlling interest at this time and its investors believe in its path forward,” Levin added.
Should a sale come to pass and Out go back to being under the ownership of someone in the gay community, as it would under the founder of Celebrity Page for instance, it’s thought that Picardi and the current Out team would be open to staying on. Should any such sale fall through, industry sources have speculated a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing may be in the cards.
Filing for bankruptcy could offer Pride an escape from mounting costs and a new group of unpaid freelancers. Interview magazine pulled off a similar maneuver last year, only to be bought back by its wealthy owner Peter Brant for a song and signed over to be run (for the second time) by his eldest daughter.
A Chapter 11 process would also leave open the possibility of Levin trying to buy the assets again with a new holding company (something he tried to do last year with Penthouse magazine, which he had a stake in) or a sale to a new owner. A bankruptcy sale would likely mean the only secured claim Pride would face would be a loan Oreva is thought to have borrowed to acquire Out and the other Pride assets. ExWorks Capital is the lender of the roughly $10 million Oreva borrowed to fund the acquisition, said by sources to be a rather high interest loan. Oreva is thought to have been missing interest payments, too, creating even more financial pressure for Out and Pride. A representative of ExWorks could not be reached for comment.
Again, Levin denied any such plans or discussions for Pride, saying Chapter 11 “wouldn’t accomplish much for the company,” citing the cost of the process compared to the company’s current outstanding payments.
“The company has recorded over $10 million of revenue to date this year and is on its way to its highest grossing year in many years,” he added. “With that said, previous management led us down a path that didn’t work and we’ve had to realign the cost structure.” Levin also claimed that Pride hit $3 million in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization and expects to hit $4 million this year.
In the event that neither a sale nor a bankruptcy occur — and Levin insisted they won’t — there’s talk that he may want to try and implement his original plan, first reported by WWD, of taking Pride public. Levin has attempted to take his other media asset High Times public as well through a Reg A+ filing (known as a “mini-IPO” — something akin to a regulated crowdfunding campaign), which is what he had planned for Pride. The process at High Times has been repeatedly delayed due to lack of funding, most recently at the end of May. ExWorks has also entered into loan agreements with Oreva regarding High Times worth $13 million, according to SEC records.
As for Out magazine, the irony of the outlet being imperiled under its first straight owner isn’t lost on many who work there. Even more than that, its financial issues are coming to a head during Pride Month and around the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, widely seen as an inciting incident to the gay rights and subsequent LGTBQ movements, without which Out would likely never have existed.
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