BuzzFeed Sells Complex to NTWRK in $109 Million Deal — Universal Music, Jimmy Iovine, and Goldman Sachs On Board As Investors

ntwrk complex purchase
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ntwrk complex purchase
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Jimmy Iovine, who’s invested in Complex as part of the company’s sale to NTWRK. Photo Credit: Angela George

BuzzFeed is officially offloading Complex to NTWRK, with investors in the nearly $109 million deal including Jimmy Iovine and Universal Music Group (UMG).

Jamie Iovine-founded NTWRK and the reportedly troubled BuzzFeed (NASDAQ: BZFD) unveiled their $108.6 million transaction this afternoon, with the selling party having only acquired the overarching Complex Networks in late 2021. (Universal Music published a formal release about the news as well, mentioning BuzzFeed a grand total of zero times therein.)

That approximately two-year-old transaction was worth close to $300 million in total. But today’s all-cash divestment of the “global youth entertainment network” Complex, the seller emphasized, excludes the “Hot Ones” series and its First We Feast parent.

And according to NTWRK, now billing itself as “a curated livestream shopping marketplace,” it intends to capitalize on Complex’s audience and positioning to “transform into a digital hub at the forefront of convergence culture.”

That refers specifically to leveraging “NTWRK’s marketplace” and reaching “culture-obsessed consumers to create a one-of-a-kind experience for a highly engaged audience.” Running with the latter point, the opportunity appears to align well with Universal Music’s superfan-monetization ambitions.

While the precise size of the Big Three label’s stake in the deal doesn’t appear to have been publicly revealed, Jimmy Iovine (who has seen a Jane Doe plaintiff drop her sexual assault lawsuit against him), Goldman Sachs (which is decidedly bullish on music’s long-term trajectory), and 27-year-old Main Street Advisors joined in investing, per NTWRK.

Moving forward, existing NTWRK CEO Aaron Levant (who co-founded the company back in 2018 with the aforementioned Jamie Iovine as well as Gaston Dominguez-Letelier) is set to helm Complex. Plus, UMG’s Interscope Geffen A&M and Capitol Music Group are already positioned “to deliver industry-leading and culture-moving experiences and exclusive collaborations, direct to passionate music fans” with NTWRK/Complex.

In a statement, Interscope Records co-founder Jimmy Iovine expressed his ambitious vision for Complex’s role in NTWRK’s growth trajectory.

“Aaron Levant, along with Jamie Iovine and Gaston Dominguez-Letelier, are building an incredible platform and this acquisition will exponentially accelerate its growth,” communicated the 70-year-old Iovine. “Combining the power and reach of Complex with the NTWRK engine serving creators across music, fashion, and art will be transformative for the next generation of consumer technology.”

Notwithstanding these and other positive remarks, however, the HuffPost parent BuzzFeed also took the opportunity to announce layoffs affecting 16 percent of its “remaining workforce.”

Additionally, the business is poised to use the Complex sale’s proceeds to, among other things, pay down a $35.5 million revolving credit facility and redeem $30.9 million worth of convertible notes. At the time of this writing, after-hours trades had elevated BuzzFeed’s stock price to 52 cents per share, about 137 percent above its closing value.