Deadspin Staff Laid Off; G/O Media Sells Sports Site

UPDATED: Sports news and commentary Deadspin has been sold again — and its entire staff has been laid off.

Deadspin, once owned by Gawker Media, became part of private-equity backed G/O Media in 2019. In a memo to company staff Monday, G/O Media CEO Jim Spanfeller announced that Deadspin was sold to European firm Lineup Publishing.

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With the sale, the 11-person staff of Deadspin was pink-slipped. “Deadspin’s new owners have made the decision to not carry over any of the site’s existing staff and instead build a new team more in line with their editorial vision for the brand,” Spanfeller wrote in the memo. “While the new owners plan to be reverential to Deadpin’s [sic] unique voice, they plan to take a different content approach regarding the site’s overall sports coverage. This unfortunately means that we will be parting ways with those impacted staff members, who were notified earlier today.”

Last fall, G/O Media shut down Jezebel and its staff was laid off after an unsuccessful attempt to sell the site. Jezebel was subsequently acquired by Atlanta-based Paste Magazine. In March 2023, G/O Media sold how-to site Lifehacker to Ziff Davis.

G/O Media’s current portfolio includes Gizmodo, The Onion, The A.V. Club, Jalopnik, Kotaku, The Root and Quartz.

The sale of Deadspin comes after the site in November 2023 published an opinion piece with a headline that originally said, “The NFL needs to speak out against the Kansas City Chiefs fan in Black face, Native headdress.” The story included a photo of a 9-year-old Chiefs fan at an NFL game wearing face paint; however, other photos of the child from the game showed that his face was painted half black and half red. In addition, the family has said the child is of Native American descent. In February 2024, the child’s family filed a defamation lawsuit against G/O Media seeking unspecified damages; the case remains pending. An editor’s note appended to the Deadspin story reads in part, “We regret any suggestion that we were attacking the fan or his family. To that end, our story was updated on Dec. 7 to remove any photos, tweets, links, or otherwise identifying information about the fan. We have also revised the headline to better reflect the substance of the story.”

The controversy over the Deadspin article “frustrated” Great Hill Partners, the private-equity firm that owns G/O Media, and “may have helped hasten” the sale of the site, according to a report by Adweek citing anonymous sources. G/O Media declined to comment. Spanfeller, in his memo to staffers Monday, said the offer to buy Deadspin was unsolicited: “I do want to make it clear that we were not actively shopping Deadspin,” he wrote.

The WGA East-affiliated Onion Inc Union, which has represented some Deadspin workers, said in a statement Monday, “Today, the entire staff of Deadspin was laid off when the Deadspin name was sold to a different owner. Layoffs like this have become all too common at this company and in our industry at large. This is why we fought for the severance package in our most recent contract, but the Deadspin staff deserve so much more than that.”

Per Spanfeller’s memo, Lineup Publishing “is a newly formed digital media company described in their words as ‘dedicated to creating, acquiring and managing high quality media brands across a variety of sectors.'” Spanfeller added, “The rationale behind the decision to sell included a variety of important factors that include the buyer’s editorial plans for the brand, tough competition in the sports journalism sector, and a valuation that reflected a sizable premium from our original purchase price for the site.” He didn’t disclose the value of the Deadspin deal.

The only information on Lineup Publishing’s website is a slogan that says “Engaging brands. With heaps of character” alongside a contact form. A G/O Media rep referred inquiries to Lineup Publishing.

Lineup Publisher is based in San Gwann, Malta, in the island nation located in the Mediterranean Sea, according to an email from Timothy Booker, who identified himself as the company’s chief operating officer. “Lineup Publishing has been founded by a group of sports fans looking to create the type of sports news and commentary people enjoy reading,” Booker wrote in the email to Variety. “Deadspin is the first in lineup’s portfolio, but we’re actively seeking to acquire and create high quality media brands across a variety of sectors.” Booker declined to identify Lineup’s founding partners or owners.

In 2019, Spanfeller and private-equity firm Great Hill Partners acquired Gizmodo Media Group (previously part of Gawker Media) and The Onion from Univision to form G/O Media.

That same year, Deadspin’s previous staff resigned en masse in protest of the new management’s demand that staffers write only about sports. Spanfeller then hired Jim Rich, former editor in chief of the New York Daily News, to run Deadspin. Rich was promoted to editorial director of G/O Media before he exited in mid-2021 over his reported objection to “interference” by Spanfeller and other top company execs. In July 2023, Rich rejoined the company as Deadspin’s EIC.

G/O Media is “always actively reviewing our portfolio and operations to make sure we are prioritizing resources to best meet the needs of our readers and advertisers,” Spanfeller wrote in the March 11 memo to employees. “Although we are seeing some improvement so far this year on the advertising front, and I am cautiously optimistic this will continue, we are cognizant of the need to focus on the core sites we feel can best prosper in the current and future media business environment.”

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