The parent company of Unilad is going into administration with debts of more than £6m owed to various parties, resulting in the popular digital publisher of viral content attracting bids.
Bentley Harrington has debts of £6.5m, including owing £1.5m to UK tax authorities.
The Unilad Facebook account has 39 million followers and posts viral videos and news stories. At its height, Unilad was the fourth largest publisher on Facebook, and managed to maintain its reach and earning on the platform, despite the changes to the NewsFeed algorithm that many people claimed would adversely affect viral content publishers.
A £10m joint bid for the company has been made by Linton Capital, whose partner David Sefton said he had “known the company for quite a while.”
Judge Clive Jones at the High Court of Justice in London ruled that the firm should begin the process, with a ruling on the administration application set to be returned on 31 October.
Unilad’s parent company Bentley Harrington Limited owes £5m to company co-founder Alex Partridge, who has been pursuing legal action against the firm for years. In addition, the HMRC is attempting to recoup £1.5m in unpaid taxes and debts in a separate legal action, bringing the company’s total debt to over £6m.
Lawyers representing Bentley Harrington initially argued against administration but have now accepted the verdict, despite reported continued interest from third parties looking to invest or acquire the publisher.
Rocket Sports, which chief executive Will Muirhead describes as “a network of 300 biased football news creators” on social media, is part of the joint bid.
The offer of £10m in cash, which Mr Sefton said has been secured, would go to paying back creditors at 100p in the pound, he said.
He added that Unilad was attractive as a business as it pulled in “core programmatic revenue” of between £6m and £7m per year.
Unilad, which has offices in London and Manchester, was founded in 2010. It was shut down in 2012, but relaunched in 2014 under new owners Liam Harrington and Sam Bentley.
It is understood that Unilad employs more than 200 people.