Verizon has sold its media division, including the early internet portals Yahoo! and AOL, to Apollo Global Management, a private equity fund, for $5bn, it announced on Monday.
The US telco giant will pocket $4.25bn in cash with preferred interests of $750m, and keep a 10 per cent stake in Verizon Media in a deal that is expected to close later this year.
Apollo Global Management will take over all of the publishing brands and advertising services managed by Verizon Media. Not only will the firm get a slice of internet history with Yahoo!, the most popular site on the internet over twenty years ago, and AOL, the ISP that spammed us all with sign-up CDs, it’ll oversee TechCrunch and Engadget, too.
Amid the shake-up, Yahoo!'s iconic exclamation point will be dropped from now on and boringly rebranded as plain old Yahoo.
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Verizon has all but given up on its dreams of becoming an internet media and advertising giant. After the company acquired AOL in 2015 for $4.4bn, it took ownership of TechCrunch, Engadget, and HuffPost. Its media unit was expanded two years later, when it snapped up Yahoo for $4.8bn, giving the telecomms provider ownership of Yahoo’s news, finance, and sports pages as well as microblogging platform Tumblr.
The goal was to churn out content, and use all its data on consumers to sell targeted ads. Online media, however, is a difficult business. Verizon sold Tumblr in 2019 to Automattic, the parent company of WordPress, and HuffPost in 2020 to BuzzFeed. It kept hold of Yahoo and AOL, however, and merged them to form Oath.
But slowly Yahoo and AOL began winding down, too, as other news aggregating sites like Reddit, Twitter, and Facebook continually got in the way. AOL killed off its instant messenger service, and Yahoo recently shut down Yahoo! Answers, its free-for-all Q&A platform, and Groups, a place for netizens to socialise, advertise items, and create mailing lists. Yahoo and AOL Mail have survived.
Still, Verizon’s CEO thinks the company has done pretty well with managing those once-pioneering sites. “Verizon Media has done an incredible job turning the business around over the past two and a half years and the growth potential is enormous,” Hans Vestberg said in a statement.
“The next iteration requires full investment and the right resources. During the strategic review process, Apollo delivered the strongest vision and strategy for the next phase of Verizon Media. I have full confidence that Yahoo will take off in its new home.” ®