G/O Media Lays Off 25 Staffers, After New CEO Said He Didn’t Expect Layoffs at Former Gizmodo Media Group

Less than a week after Jim Spanfeller, CEO of the newly formed G/O Media said he was not expecting to make layoffs at the company — encompassing the former Gizmodo Media Group and The Onion, sold by Univision earlier this month — it has let go 25 staffers.

The 25 employees leaving G/O Media represent about 6% of its headcount. Those include Susie Banikarim, formerly editorial director of Gizmodo Media Group (whom Univision hired in 2017) and executive managing editor Alex Dickinson. Their exits were previously reported by The Daily Beast.

The cuts “are not about making the company smaller,” Spanfeller wrote in an internal memo sent to staff that was obtained by Variety. New York-based G/O Media expects to end Year One of operation with more than the 400 employees on the payroll, he claimed.

The company’s goal is to produce more content and sign more marketing partners, and “The only way I know how to do that is to build bigger teams,” Spanfeller continued. The layoffs at G/O Media were driven by the “need to re-configure specific processes” and “were not performance driven but rather process motivated.”

The company is close to naming a new head of editorial operations, a source familiar with the situation confirmed: Paul Maidment, who has been managing editor Oxford Analytica’s Daily Brief economic newsletter. Maidment worked with Spanfeller at Forbes.com, where Spanfeller had been CEO.

Univision sold Gizmodo Media Group and The Onion, reportedly for less than $50 million, to private-equity firm Great Hill Partners and Spanfeller, who owns a minority stake in the company. The broadcaster had paid $135 million for only the former Gawker Media properties two and half years ago in a bankruptcy auction.

G/O Media’s properties are Gizmodo, Jalopnik, Jezebel, Deadspin, Lifehacker, Kotaku, Splinter and The Root; and The Onion, which includes its flagship satire publication, entertainment outlet A.V. Club, ClickHole and The Takeout. The sites reach about 100 million unique monthly visitors, although the audience is less than 80 million after backing out third-party sites that are part of the group’s ad network.

Spanfeller had said in an interview with Variety that he had no plans to make significant layoffs at the company, but that G/O Media would be “looking to run things more efficiently.”

In the memo to staff Tuesday, Spanfeller said G/O Media will be hiring across the operations, including content producers, sales staff and development team, including plans to “invest heavily in our Kinja platform.”

Most recently, Spanfeller built and sold Spanfeller Media Group, whose properties included The Daily Meal and The Active Times, in December 2016 to Tribune Publishing Co. (then called Tronc).

At G/O Media, Spanfeller recently hired CTO Jesse Knight, who was CTO/CIO of Vice Media from 2012-17, and CFO Tom Callahan, who most recently was CFO of BandLab Technologies (where he helped support media operations and manage its investment in Rolling Stone, now owned by Penske Media Corp., the parent company of Variety) and previously worked with Spanfeller at Forbes Media.

Univision bought the Gawker Media assets in a bankruptcy auction (excluding Gawker.com), after Gawker Media was sued into bankruptcy by Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel. Univision acquired a 40% stake in The Onion in January 2017 for an undisclosed amount. Separately, Gawker is slated to relaunch this year under Bustle Digital Group, after CEO Bryan Goldberg paid $1.35 million for the media gossip blog.