More New Media is Bought by Old Media: Hearst Buys Stake in Complex for US $21 Million

What: Media and Information company Hearst has invested US$21 million to acquire a minority stake in Complex, one of the fastest growing digital media networks.
Why it matters: Hearst, as other traditional media companiesincluding NBC (e.g. it recent purchase of stakes Vox Media and BuzzFeed)  continues to invest in fast growing digital media and streaming video companies and expand in the digital video arena.

J_kELH0x_400x400Hearst, one of the nation’s largest diversified media and information companies, has announced that it has invested US$21 million to acquire a minority stake in Complex, one of the fastest growing digital media networks.

The joint announcement was made by Hearst Entertainment & Syndication Co-President and Hearst Digital Studios President Neeraj Khemlani, Complex Founder and CEO Rich Antoniello and Complex Founder Marc Ecko.

095dfd2Khemlani (photo) will take a board seat at Complex.

Now reaching over 57 million diverse millennial males monthly across its destination and partner sites, Complex is  is now one of the top 10 publishers in the U.S. when it comes to social interaction and engagement on channels like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.Complex currently operates a network of sites in addition to its own destination site ( that focus on niche cultures and report on trends in pop culture, entertainment, fashion, hip-hop music, art and design, food, technology, sports and video games.

“Hearst continues to invest in fast growing digital media and streaming video companies,” Khemlani said. “The Complex team drives explosive engagement through smart, hip content that features exclusives from some of the top music and popular culture stars of our time.”

“This is an important investment for us and one we view as a crucial strategic play. As we look towards further expansion in digital and linear entertainment, Complex will have access to the extensive expertise, scale and partnerships that only a global media company like Hearst could offer,” Antoniello said. “And with Hearst, we’re poised to become the publisher that influences culture and spurs conversation among an audience that’s as influential as it is broad.”

Since Ecko Unltd. designer and entrepreneur Marc Ecko launched the print publication in 2002, Complex has expanded its business in digital, video, branded activations and emerging platforms. The company has seen a profit since 2010, as it has also excelled in providing a targeted and attractive demographic for advertisers. Over the last two years, Complex has adopted a video-first approach, seeing audience spike to 192 million monthly views, a 415 percent growth year over year. Earlier in 2015, filmmaker Spike Lee joined Complex as Board Advisor, Branded Video Projects to develop formats that could bridge both digital and linear media.

According to Khemlani, the aim behind the deal is the same one that has led Hearst to take stakes in AwesomenessTV and, via its partial ownership in TV programmer A&E, in Vice Media: digital video.

The US$21 million is “predominantly” going into Complex as a direct investment, says CEO Rich Antoniello, though some of the money will go back out to early shareholders via secondary sales. Complex has raised US$52 million to date, including a US$25 million investment from Iconix Brand Group in 2013 that valued the company at $174 million.