UPDATED Aug. 26, 2021, 11:57 p.m.: Brooklyn-based Vice Media is planning to move its headquarters to Dock 72, the Brooklyn Navy Yard office building developed by Rudin Management and Boston Properties in cooperation with WeWork.
Sources tell The Real Deal that the company has lined up a large lease with the developers. The deal has not been signed, but the company is preparing to move out of its other locations.
Vice is taking “four or five floors” of the 16-story, 675,000-square-foot building, a source said, adding that an unnamed company will lease another floor.
A Vice Media Group spokesperson said in a statement, “Vice has a current lease that expires in 2022 and does not have an agreement with any party at this time. Like all companies with an expiring lease, Vice is exploring all options for new office space while maintaining the best cost profile for our company.”
Dock 72 has 222,000 square feet leased to WeWork but the pandemic and somewhat isolated location have put a damper on its leasing velocity, despite a ferry stop at its base.
Dock 72 is surrounded on three sides by the East River, and brokers who attended a recent event there said it took them over an hour to get there from Midtown, including the ferry ride. But its numerous amenities and waterfront location are part of its appeal.
WeWork, which will provide programming for other tenants, recommitted to the slender, ship-shape building as its Brooklyn flagship last fall, stating it would occupy 100,000 square feet. It previously opened several floors for its members in the fall of 2019.
Vice’s other locations are already in Brooklyn. It has roughly 80,000 square feet at the linked 49 South 2nd Street and 289 Kent Avenue, where it has an emergency generator and a green roof, as well as offices at 99 North 10th Street and 43,000 square feet for its creative agency, Virtue, at Two Trees Management’s 55 Washington Street.
Vice’s consolidation will create some vacancies. At the nine-story Washington Street site, the full top floor of 43,700 square feet, which includes four private terraces and sweeping views, will be available in February and is being marketed directly by Two Trees, a company executive confirmed.
Sources said the Kent Avenue and South Second Street spot is expected to be offered through Lee & Associates NYC.
It is unclear if Refinery29, an online fashion destination that Vice purchased in 2019 for $400 million and is based at 225 Broadway in Lower Manhattan, would also move to Brooklyn. The company, which has more than 3,000 employees, laid off “fewer than 20” of them Thursday, apparently unrelated to the pending move.
Founded in Montreal in 1994 as a punk magazine by Suroosh Alvi, Shane Smith, and Gavin McInnes, Vice was later purchased by another Canadian and relocated to New York City. Here it expanded into stores, films and reporting as a youth-focused media company.
After the dot-com bubble burst, the founders bought out the investor. McInnes left the company in 2008 and went on to found the right-wing Proud Boys in 2016.
Vice received an investment of $650 million in 2017 from TPG, which created an overheated valuation of $5.7 billion. Then Smith was kicked aside in 2018 for presiding over a “toxic environment” and A&E’s Nancy Dubuc took the helm to rebuild its reputation.
Investors including 23 Capital, Soros Fund Management, Fortress Investment Group and Monroe Capital provided Vice $250 million in debt in 2019. It tightened its belts, laying off 155 employees, in 2020 as the pandemic surged.
By May 2021, it was preparing to go public through a merger with special purpose acquisition company 7GC, the Wall St. Journal reported, in a deal that would revalue it at $3 billion.
Led by Morgan Stanley executive Jack Leeney, the SPAC and new investors would have owned 25 percent while existing shareholders including Disney, TPG, A&E Networks, the Raine Group and Vice co-founder Smith would own the remaining 75 percent.
But it may have already hit some snags as the Delta variant has given investors pause. In July, an insider told Deadline, “Our financing process is still ongoing and we have had positive conversations with a range of investors.”
Rudin Management and WeWork did not comment for this story.
This article has been updated to include a statement from Vice Media Group.