Despite reports to the contrary, insiders at the Walt Disney Co. (NYSE:DIS) say the multimedia giant has no interest in purchasing or investing in Shane Smith’s hipper-than-thou enterprise Vice Media.
Vice has made a splash in recent years with its edgy, millennial-oriented brand of journalism that has published reports on everything from trips inside North Korea’s borders with HBO and Dennis Rodman to a series of depressing check-ins on Corey Feldman’s parties. Smith’s empire, which started as an independently published zine in 1994, has been successful enough to attract a 5 percent investment from 21st Century Fox (NASDAQ: FOX), and on Sunday the New York Times reported that Vice Media was entertaining offers from Fox, Time Warner Inc. (NYSE:TWX) and family-friendly conglomerate Disney that could value the company as high as $2.5 billion.
Now, however, insiders at Disney are disputing that the House of Mouse has any interest in Vice Media.
"Disney has no interest. It’s unclear where they’d even put something like this," an anonymous source explained late Monday to the Hollywood Reporter (THR).
Disney reportedly took issue with Vice’s mature content. The site regularly explores sexually explicit issues, discusses drug use openly and swears liberally throughout its content. The edgy take on journalism attracts young readers to the tune of 500 million unique visitors a month but is a little too hardcore for a company like Disney that prides itself on a squeaky-clean image.
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As for how Disney came up in the Times report in the first place, one source speculates that Disney may have briefly looked at Vice, but that its potential interest was exaggerated by other parties to drive up Vice’s appeal.
"An interested party is obviously trying to drum up a bidding war," one anonymous source told THR. "It’s interesting that Viacom isn’t usually mentioned as a bidder, since MTV is most analogous to Vice’s business."
It isn’t just Disney that seems less interested in Vice than the Times is letting on. The Hollywood Reporter also notes that 21st Century Fox is unlikely to invest any further in Vice and is reportedly “happy with its current stake” in the company.
"The 5 percent stake had an opportunity to do more and decided against it," a source told THR.
If a deal with Vice does go through, it will likely come through Time Warner, which is reportedly seeking an equity deal with the company. Time Warner already licenses content from Vice through HBO.