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Unilad viral publisher goes into administration

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The firm that owns viral news website Unilad has gone into administration, putting hundreds of jobs at risk.

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.

A £10m joint bid for the company has been made by Linton Capital, whose partner David Sefton is interim chief executive of Unilad.

“I’ve known the company for quite a while,” he said.

The offer

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 was named as one of Facebook’s most popular pages last year.

Manchester-based administrators Leonard Curtis Business Rescue and Recovery say they are “seeking offers for the business in order to preserve jobs and maximise the return to creditors”.

Mr Sefton said he was aware of other parties who were interested in bidding, but as far as he was aware, his was the first formal bid.

Creditors

It is understood that Unilad employs more than 200 people.

Administration came after a hearing at a specialist Insolvency and Companies Court in London, where Judge Clive Jones heard that a creditor and directors of the firm agreed that administrators should be appointed.

HM Revenue and Customs officials were also not against administrators being appointed.

Unilad founder Alex Partridge told the court he was owed £5m and argued for the company to be placed into administration.

Lawyers for Bentley Harrington had initially argued against administration, but withdrew their objections.

HM Revenue and Customs officials have issued a petition to wind up Bentley Harrington in separate litigation, with that case coming to court on 31 October.

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