The Onion Is Sold by G/O Media


G/O Media announced on Thursday that it had sold The Onion, a satirical news site, to a group of digital media veterans.

The Onion, which started in 1988 in Wisconsin as a weekly satirical newspaper and later became a website, is known for its parodies of current events. For the last decade, it has republished the same headline after nearly every mass shooting: “‘No Way to Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.”

In an email to G/O Media staff that was obtained by The New York Times, Jim Spanfeller, the chief executive, said the company was “undergoing an extensive review of our portfolio with the intention of coring down to our leading sites in terms of audience and revenues.” He said G/O Media had agreed to sell to “a new Chicago-based firm called Global Tetrahedron.”

“This company is made up of four digital media veterans with a profound love for The Onion and comedy-based content,” Mr. Spanfeller wrote. “The site’s new owners have agreed to keep The Onion’s entire staff intact and in Chicago, something we insisted be part of the deal.”

The name Global Tetrahedron is, in true Onion fashion, a winking reference to a sinister fictional company featured in the book “Our Dumb Century,” which was written by The Onion’s staff and published in 1999.

The real-life Global Tetrahedron is owned by Jeff Lawson, a co-founder and former chief executive of the technology communications company Twilio. The chief executive is Ben Collins, who was a senior reporter at NBC News until recently. Leila Brillson, a former TikTok executive, and Danielle Strle, previously at Tumblr, round out the executive team.

In an interview, Mr. Lawson said that he had long wanted to buy The Onion and had pursued the project at various points in time before linking up with Mr. Collins, who started pondering the idea early this year.

“The world needs laughter; it needs satirical criticism more than ever,” Mr. Lawson said. “And that’s why we think this is the right time and the right way to help The Onion continue to grow, continue to flourish, and frankly I’m concerned if we hadn’t done this, I don’t know what would have happened.”

Mr. Collins said audiences had a longstanding connection to The Onion and noted that many of the website’s writers and editors had been there for years.

“Our goal is to be stewards for this thing,” he said. “We’re keeping all the writers, we’re going to work with the union, we’re going to make it so they can hopefully get paid a little bit more money, and we’re going to give them the room to grow.”

The new owners said they planned to improve user experience on the website and expand into multimedia, but otherwise wanted The Onion’s staff members to continue to do the work they’ve been doing.

Mr. Lawson and Mr. Collins, who were in Chicago Thursday to meet The Onion’s editorial staff, declined to disclose the deal price. Noah Shachtman, the former editor in chief of Rolling Stone, has advised on the project, according to two people with knowledge of the deal.

“The Onion is just an institution,” Mr. Lawson said, adding: “It should be preserved and it should be great.”

The website is the latest to be shed by G/O Media, which still publishes a few stalwart internet brands like Gizmodo, The Root and Quartz. In recent years, the company sold off Jezebel, Lifehacker, Deadspin and the A.V. Club. G/O Media was formed in 2019 by the private equity firm Great Hill Partners after it bought a collection of websites that were once part of Gawker Media.

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