Vice’s new owners prepare to cut what’s left of its workforce

Vice Media executives plan to lay off several hundred of its more than 900 employees over the next week, eliminating staff from its digital publishing division, according to a company memo sent to staff Thursday by Bruce Dixon, director general of Vice Media.

The cuts will be the latest in a series of severe reductions the company has undergone in recent years, reducing the global digital colossus to a husk of its former self. Over the past five years, Vice has experienced near-annual layoffs and mounting losses, and filed for bankruptcy, making it the epitome of a digital media industry in trouble.

When Vice emerged from bankruptcy last year, some observers hoped its new owners – a consortium led by private equity firm Fortress Investment Group – would reinvest to help the company return to growth.

Instead, Fortress decided to make sweeping cuts, in an attempt to stem the endless tide of red ink. The company plans to inform its employees of its new business strategy next week.

Mr. Dixon also said in the memo, which was seen by The New York Times, that the company would no longer publish on Vice.com.

“As we operate in an ever-changing business landscape, we must adapt and best align our strategies to be more competitive in the long term,” he writes. He also said Vice was in advanced talks to sell Refinery29, the company’s women-focused publishing division.

The layoffs come amid severe headwinds for the entire media industry. Over the past year, nearly every major news publisher, including the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, Vox Media and the Los Angeles Times, has scaled back operations. Web traffic to news organizations has declined precipitously as users spend time with non-traditional media outlets like TikTok and Instagram.

Vice was in bad shape before this planned wave of budget cuts. The company has been periodically put up for sale over the past two years, with long-promised profits failing to materialize. As the digital media business environment grew increasingly precarious, executives were betting on big, elaborate content deals for clients like cigarette maker Philip Morris International and Antenna, a Greek media company.

When the deal with Antenna ended last year, Vice’s financial situation became desperate and the company slipped into bankruptcy. But even after a court-supervised sales process, the company struggled to reach profitability and bills continued to pile up.

Founded more than twenty years ago as a punk magazine in Montreal, Vice rode a growing wave of investment from media heavyweights like A&E Networks, Disney and private equity firm TPG to reach a valuation of $5.7 billion. But the company suffered a spectacular reversal of fortune and struggled to live up to its eye-popping valuation as the digital media market collapsed, leaving its backers and employees without a return on their investment .