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Viacom Looks at Thrillist for Possible Acquisition

Thrillist CEO Ben Lerer has been looking to sell the company or raise money for some time.

Syda Productions/Shutterstock

Viacom has been in talks to buy Thrillist Media Group, the e-commerce and media company that targets millennial men.

Thrillist CEO Ben Lerer has been looking to sell the company or raise money for some time, and has had repeated conversations with the cable TV conglomerate, according to sources familiar with both companies. That doesn’t mean a deal will happen; Viacom, which has been relatively quiet on the M&A front, had also been interested in acquiring video company Funny or Die earlier this year, but those talks have petered out.

Lerer started Thrillist in 2005 as an email newsletter that told young men about places they could spend their money on food, booze and clothing. In recent years, Lerer has concentrated on building out its e-commerce business.

Lerer has told prospective buyers and investors that the company did around $90 million in revenue in 2014, and the majority of that came from its e-commerce sales. The company has been profitable in the past, but wasn’t last year and won’t be this year, Lerer previously told Re/code. It has 350 employees.

Reached for comment, Lerer said, “We’re super heads-down building a business, having more fun than we’ve ever had before. That being said, right now I’m calling you from Montreal where I’m on a four-day bachelor party, which is not where I’d be if we were doing a deal right now.”

A Viacom rep declined to comment.

Thrillist hasn’t announced any new funding since 2012, when it raised $13 million in a round led by Oak Investment Partners; sources say that deal pegged the company’s value at $150 million.

Some of the pressure to sell has come from Bob Pittman, according to sources, a board member whose investment firm Pilot Group was Thrillist’s first investor back in 2005 and who would like a return on his investment. A Viacom sale might have some symbolism, since Pittman was a co-founder of MTV, the channel that turned Viacom into a cable powerhouse.

Pittman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

While Thrillist launched as a media company, the company has put a lot of focus on e-commerce in recent years. This transition was fueled by the 2010 acquisition of JackThreads, a shopping site that sold men’s streetwear in limited-time sales known as flash sales. Last year, JackThreads began adding more full-price goods to its site and started focusing on creating and selling new brands, which carry higher profit margins.

In December, the company’s new commerce chief told Re/code he wanted to eventually sell a large line of clothing that carries the JackThreads brand name. The company also sells some products directly on Thrillist.com and Supercompressor.com, its gadget site.

Lerer also works at Lerer Hippeau Ventures, the investment group he runs along with his father Ken Lerer and Eric Hippeau, two longtime Internet veterans.

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.

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