At an all-hands meeting in New York on Thursday morning, Chris Altchek stood in front of his staff and delivered a eulogy. Mic, the millennial-centric site that rose to fame on the back of the Facebook algorithm years before, was effectively dead.
Fighting tears, Mic’s co-founder and CEO explained to his staff that a recent decision by Facebook to cancel a lucrative deal with the company left it with no alternative. “Facebook caught us by surprise at a really bad time,” he said.
The news meant that Mic could no longer survive as an independent media company. Later that day, Bustle Digital Group’s founder would announce that he had agreed to purchase the site in hopes of capitalizing on the 2020 presidential election. But as Altchek made clear to his staff Thursday morning, Bustle wasn’t interested in the staff.
“Immediately,” Altchek later added, “we have no choice but to give notice to the whole company in order to be in a position to be able to pay severance.”
An audio file obtained by HuffPost captures the moment when Mic employees learned their fate. Even if it wasn’t entirely clear then, all of the traditional editorial employees except for the company’s other co-founder, Jake Horowitz, were to be let go. Many other employees throughout the company would lose their jobs as well. A company that had more than 100 employees in September would be reduced to less than half that by the end of the day.
“The majority of the teams including people, finance, HR, productions, video, editorial, marketing, revenue and executive team will be departing, effective today,” said Altchek, who was not among those laid off on Thursday.
In his remarks to the staff, a clearly emotional Altchek often had to pause to compose himself, placing the blame squarely on outside forces: Facebook and larger industry “headwinds.” He also explained the separation agreement, which included a “laptop or laptop credit,” and apologized to any employees who’d learned of the site’s fate the night before from a news story, hinting at one point that a media company to which Mic had spoken about an acquisition “took advantage of the situation.”
The evening before, Recode reported that Mic was in talks with Bustle, which “would consider bringing in half or less of the Mic staff,” the tech site said.
The complete transcription of the audio file can be found below:
…. and a key part of our plan to support our journalism. The deal was expected to continue through July of next year, as you guys know. Facebook caught us by surprise at a really bad time. We were at the end of an investment-and-acquisition process that we had been working on for many months. The cancellation combined with the headwinds our industry is facing has made it no longer possible for us to operate as an independent media company. Our funding has dried up and dramatically reduced interest from potential acquirers and investors.
Since we got the news, before the holiday, our focus has been on doing everything we can to keep as many jobs as possible and keep the brand ― and all the work that all of you contributed so much to ― a chance to survive. The executive team gave it their all to find a solution, but because of the situation, in order to move forward we’d have to lose many excellent team members today. Immediately [pause], we have no choice but to give notice to the whole company in order to be in a position to be able to pay severance. The majority of the teams, including people, finance, HR, productions, video, editorial, marketing, revenue and executive team, will be departing, effective today. For those of you who are represented by the NewsGuild, we are informing the union now and we will, as required, address the issue of severance with them immediately. For those of you not receiving new employment offers and who are non-union, everybody will be paid payroll this week and severance will be as followed: Subject to a separation agreement, everybody will get two additional payrolls in December and January 1st plus benefits through December and a benefits stipend in January, as well as laptop or laptop credit. The last day for impacted teams will be today. We will be meeting directly following this conversation to discuss next steps.
Given the impact of the loss of our Facebook contract on our business, we had no alternative but to act immediately in order to be in a position to pay severance and benefits to the departing teams. If you have any questions, we’ll be answering them in meetings immediately following this one. This has been a very difficult turn of events. You’ve all invested the last seven years [pause] in building a mission-driven media brand. All of you have contributed in ways that made me very proud and it was very painful to know that each of you had to see last night’s press before hearing it from us. As we explored all solutions, we had to discuss our situation with a number of companies, some who obviously took advantage of the situation.
Importantly, we won’t allow this to erase what this team has accomplished. Our vision was to build a journalism company that reported important stories and could make a positive impact. Despite the many headwinds of building that today, you’ve done exactly that and surpassed all of our expectations. Your work has sparked movements, improved lives and led to countless positive actions. You’ve worked so hard, innovated and always acted with integrity. Hopefully, the team and experience [inaudible] from Mic can contribute to the success of media going forward. I want to thank you all sincerely for contributing to Mic.
Our focus now is on helping team members who are leaving Mic find their next employment quickly and you have my commitment as well as [Mic publisher] Cory [Haik]’s and the rest of the executive team to do whatever we can to help everybody find jobs. Our second focus is on helping the transitioning team successfully transition to a new home and give the Mic brand the best chance of success in the future. As a next step, we’ll answer questions and talk about logistics. For NewsGuild-represented employees, please join Jessica, Caitlyn, Jake in Butler. If you’ve been notified about a continuing role, please join Sara and Marcus in Lorde. And for everyone else, please come to Angelou with me and Sharmi. We’re going to take a five-minute break and then reconvene in those rooms.
When reached by email Friday morning, a Mic spokesperson said there was no need for additional comment or context.
“No, Maxwell, nothing more to share at this point,” the spokesperson replied. “It is all out there.”