Bustle Digital hires bank to explore deal to go public -source

(Reuters) -Bustle Digital Group (BDG), the U.S. media platform whose publications include fashion magazine W and Bustle, is exploring a potential merger with blank-check acquisition companies which would take it public, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The company is aiming for a valuation of at least $600 million, including debt, and recently hired investment bank Farvahar Partners to identify an attractive deal with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), the source said.

It is possible that no deal will materialize, the source said, requesting anonymity. BDG declined to comment.

A SPAC is a shell company that raises money in an initial public offering (IPO) to merge with a privately held company which then becomes publicly traded as a result.

SPACs have emerged as a popular IPO alternative for companies to go public with less regulatory scrutiny and a better chance of attaining a target valuation and raising needed funds.

A deal with a SPAC could give BDG cash to acquire more media publications.

BDG is led by media entrepreneur Bryan Goldberg, who made his name by co-founding sports website the Bleacher Report in 2007 and later selling it to Turner Broadcasting in 2012 in a $200 million deal.

Goldberg started Bustle in 2013 and over the years rebranded the group as BDG. The New York-based company added a string of publications to its roster, including W, millennial-focused news site Mic, and fashion and lifestyle publication Elite Daily. In 2018, Goldberg also acquired Gawker.com, known for its snarky celebrity and media industry gossip, in a bankruptcy auction.

The company has often purchased struggling media brands and sought to cut costs and turn them around. The company says its various publications have over 82 million readers.

Unlike many publishers who rely on subscription fees, BDG’s business model is focused on revenue from advertising, leveraging its large stable of brands. Revenue in 2020 came in at just shy of $100 million, according to a person familiar with BDG’s finances, and the company achieved positive earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization for the first time.

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