G/O Media Sells Off Deadspin to Be Entirely Gutted

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast
Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast

G/O Media has sold Deadspin to a European media company that will not keep any of the long-running sports news outlet’s current staff, the company’s CEO told employees in a memo on Monday.

“Recently we were approached by the European firm Lineup Publishing expressing interest in purchasing Deadspin to add to their growing media holdings,” read the staff-wide memo from CEO Jim Spanfeller to all G/O employees. “Lineup Publishing is a newly formed digital media company described in their words as ‘dedicated to creating, acquiring and managing high quality media brands across a variety of sectors.’”

The memo continued: “After careful consideration, the G/O Media board of directors has decided to accept their offer. I do want to make it clear that we were not actively shopping Deadspin. The rationale behind the decision to sell included a variety of important factors that include the buyer’s editorial plans.”

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Lineup Publishing will “not carry over any of the site’s existing staff and instead build a new team more in line with their editorial vision for the brand,” the staff-wide note added. “While the new owners plan to be reverential to Deadpin’s unique voice, they plan to take a different content approach regarding the site's overall sports coverage. This unfortunately means that we will be parting ways with those impacted staff members.”

Sources at G/O Media told The Daily Beast that Deadspin staffers who were terminated were essentially only allowed to collect their possessions and leave. Additionally, these employees were immediately unable to access their work Slack channels and computers.

“So we just got half an hour’s notice that Deadspin has been sold to a European startup and they’re not taking any staff,” Deadspin senior writer Julie DiCaro tweeted. “Already locked out a company slack and our laptops.”

The gutting of Deadspin takes place amid a spate of media outlets and legacy brands downsizing or shuttering, but Spanfeller has long come under fire for his stewardship of G/O Media, which purchased the former Gawker Media properties from Univision in 2019. (Gawker was forced into bankruptcy in 2016 following the Hulk Hogan lawsuit over the publication of a sex tape, which awarded the pro-wrestling icon $140 million.)

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Much of the criticism of Spanfeller’s reign atop G/O has focused on his handling of Deadspin. Even though it was long known for an irreverent combination of pop culture, politics, and sports, Spanfeller ordered Deadspin employees to “stick to sports” shortly after acquiring the outlet. Barry Petechesky, then the site’s editor-in-chief, was quickly fired for not adhering to Spanfeller’s directive, prompting the rest of the staff to eventually resign in protest and leave the site inactive until new staffers were hired to fill what’s often been referred to as “Zombie Deadspin.”

Shortly after the mass exodus, the union representing G/O Media staffers called Spanfeller’s behavior “reckless” and “ill-informed,” adding that “no one in this bargaining unit is surprised that, once again... Spanfeller has demonstrated a jaw-dropping lack of understanding of the business he acquired.” Months later, a group of ex-Deadspin writers launched Defector Media, their own “employee-owned sports and culture website.”

Deadspin’s demise comes just months after G/O Media closed down its famed feminist site Jezebel, only for it to be resurrected by Paste magazine weeks later. Before the short-lived downfall of Jezebel, G/O Media shuttered the political blog Splinter News in November 2019 (which was also recently purchased by Paste) and sold LifeHacker in March 2023.

Even the brands that have remained at G/O Media have been roiled by near-constant turnover, with a string of chief editors leaving within the past year. Additionally, company brass has further rankled staff by producing AI-generated content riddled with errors, prompting the union to demand the company end the practice.

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