Complex Acquired by NTWRK, With Investment From Universal Music Group

Livestream shopping platform NTWRK is acquiring streetwear, music and sports-centric media company Complex Networks. The deal will create a new entity that the two companies claim will be “a new destination for ‘superfan’ culture” and bring an e-commerce marketplace into the former media brand’s ecosystem.

The news was announced Wednesday (Feb. 21), with investment from Main Street Advisors, Universal Music Group, Goldman Sachs and Interscope Records founder Jimmy Iovine. UMG will also come on board as a strategic partner and current Interscope chairman/CEO John Janick will join the company’s board.

NTWRK is acquiring Complex from Buzzfeed, which purchased the streetwear-focused media company in 2021 for $300 million. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, though The New York Times reported last October that a deal worth $140 million was close; subsequent reporting in December put the price at slightly more than $100 million. NTWRK co-founder/CEO Aaron Levant — who initially created NTWRK alongside Jamie Iovine and Gaston Dominguez-Letelier, and co-founded ComplexCon with Complex founder Marc Ecko in 2016 — will become CEO of the new company.

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“Complex has been a beacon of culture and innovation for over two decades,” Levant said in a statement. “My journey with Complex began as an admirer of their original magazine in 2002 and it has now come full circle as I step into the leadership role. Alongside this impressive team, we will create the definitive global content, commerce and experiential platform of convergence culture.”

NTWRK has previously worked with several UMG artists, including Billie Eilish, Post Malone and BLACKPINK, the latter of whom worked with Takashi Murakami for Interscope’s 30th anniversary vinyl collection. UMG’s involvement, however, is not an exclusive one, and the new platform will remain open to artists of any label, major or independent.

“This partnership will give our artists access to a dynamic network to deepen connections with superfans through unique collaborations and cultural moments,” said Janick in a statement. “We share a collective vision on how D2C, experiential, brand partnerships and content are mutually reinforcing cornerstones of the fan experience. We will continue to sign and elevate new generations of great talent and we believe that we can best serve these artists through a holistic set of capabilities.”

The focus on the superfan is one that is a priority for UMG this year, with UMG chairman/CEO Lucian Grainge writing in his New Year’s memo to staff that “the next focus of our strategy will be to grow the pie for all artists, by strengthening the artist-fan relationship through superfan experiences and products,” which he called part of “the blueprint for the labels of the future.”

The new company also comes amid a lot of changes in both the music and media spaces. UMG announced a huge label restructuring earlier this year, with Janick taking on oversight of Capitol Music Group and other labels, as the music major approaches looming layoffs. At the same time, Buzzfeed is believed to be selling Complex for much less than half of what it acquired it for just three years ago, amid a wider run of layoffs and closings of media outlets across the industry. Warner Music Group, which last year laid off 600 people, also announced that it would be selling some of its owned media properties, such as HipHopDX and Uproxx.

“Aaron Levant, along with Jamie Iovine and Gaston Dominguez-Letelier, are building an incredible platform and this acquisition will exponentially accelerate its growth,” Jimmy Iovine said in a statement. “Combining the power and reach of Complex with the NTWRK engine serving creators across music, fashion and art will be transformative for the next generation of consumer technology.”


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