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SpinMedia Twirls Again and Gets New Owners -- Who Look a Lot Like the Old Owners

The people who run Spin, Vibe and other pop culture sites go through another shuffle.

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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.

The publishing company that runs Spin, Vibe and other pop culture properties has had three different CEOs in the last year. Now it has a new owner. Which is sort of the same as the old owner.

SpinMedia LLC has been acquired by SpinMedia Group, which is made up of many of the same investors that owned the old company. The transaction is part of a deal in which the old company went through an assignment for benefit of creditors — a legal process that works in similar ways to a bankruptcy filing and lets the old company work out deals with its old lenders and vendors.

The main takeaway is that the new company, led by PE fund M/C Partners, which had invested in the old company, now has a fresh $10 million to work with, says CEO Dale Strang.

Focus Ventures and Anthem Venture Partners, both of which owned a piece of the old company, are back in the new one, although Redpoint Ventures, which put money into a $15 million round last year, is not. TDF Ventures, which hadn’t backed SpinMedia in the past, has come aboard in this round, Strang said.

From the outside, it’s hard to figure out exactly how much money investors have put into SpinMedia, which at one point was called BuzzNet, over the years; in the past, people familiar with the company have pegged the number at around $70 million.

Strang says the new SpinMedia will continue to operate Spin, Vibe and other pop culture sites like Stereogum and Celebuzz; he said the company now has 170 employees, because “we’ve learned quite a bit over the past few months,” but said he doesn’t plan further cuts.

SpinMedia’s roster of sites attracts 27 million visitors a month in the U.S.; the company also runs an ad/content network that increases that number. That means SpinMedia is a midsize player in the pop culture Web publishing world, which is a dangerous spot to be in when everyone else is either going for giant scale or select niches.

And while Strang says the company has a new strategy to focus on mobile and social, aided by a new chief revenue officer — Tom Morrissy, who had the same job at video ad network Selectable Media — there are a whole lot of people chasing mobile and social, for obvious reasons.

It’s also understandable if you’re skeptical about SpinMedia’s newest incarnation, as the company has been swapping top executives, names, investors and employees for a while. Strang himself took the CEO job last September; last year, the company’s investors hired Piper Jaffray to shop it around for a new buyer. Instead they ended up re-buying it themselves.

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