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Onion CEO: Sure, We're for Sale. But Mostly We Just Want Money, So Make an Offer. (Memo)

You thought the headline would use "area man," right?

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Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Yes, The Onion is for sale. But also, it might just raise some money.

That’s what the head of the satirical Web publisher is telling his staff, in a memo you can read below. In an email distributed today, Onion CEO Steve Hannah tells his employees he’s pursuing what bankers call a “dual track process” — they’re looking for an investor or a buyer.

This is the kind of thing reporters hear all the time when they call up a company that’s on the block and ask for comment. And it’s also often true. Because in both cases, you’re selling the company — it’s just a matter of how much of the company you’re selling.

[UPDATE: The Onion is not a giant business. The company has been telling prospective buyers/investors that it will generate revenues of $20 million this year, and adjusted earnings of $3 million. Next year it thinks it will do $30 million and $8 million. The Onion tells advertisers it has 11 million monthly visitors.]

In any case, Hannah doesn’t go into any detail in his email, other than to boast that the company has “been in a nice growth mode for the past 18 months.” He also doesn’t crack any jokes, unlike Funny or Die CEO Dick Glover, who is also putting a banker to work.

Hannah declined to comment.

Disclosure: A long, long time ago, when The Onion was best known for delivering pizza coupons to University of Wisconsin students, I attended a story meeting for the paper. My pitches were rejected and I received $5 for my participation. They made the right call.

To: Onion Staff
From: Steve Hannah
Re: Bloomberg article

By now most of you have probably seen an article that ran on the Bloomberg wire last night. It reported that The Onion had hired a financial advisor and was exploring a possible sale.

Here’s the real story:

Yes, we have a financial advisor. This is not new. We have had one helping us for most of the past 10 years. Whenever the media market is strong and the company is growing, we get inquiries from interested parties about everything from investment in to a possible purchase of The Onion.

We have been in a nice growth mode for the past 18 months, and that never fails to attract attention.

Our financial advisor handles inbound inquiries and also has been actively looking for the ideal partner who wants to put money in the company and accelerate its growth. It takes capital to grow a company and there is no better time to raise it than when your brand(s) and business are going strong.
In the course of looking to raise money, our advisors got a lot of interest from media companies and investment firms. Predictably, their interest ranged from making an investment in The Onion to acquisition of the company. This is the normal course of events in the capital-raising world.

We have had follow-up conversations with numerous parties in recent months. Our advisors will continue to have those conversations and, hopefully, they will lead to the right outcome.

Our senior management team is aware of these plans and plays a role in the process, giving us valuable input into where investment dollars could be put to work. They are positively excited about finding a partner who believes in our brands and our people, and they are eager to get the sort of investment that will allow us to fund new initiatives across the company.

This could be a good time for us to take on an investor, but it has to be the right one.

I will keep you apprised as things unfold.

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