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OnlyFans Reportedly Trying to Get into Bed With SPACs
by Nicholas Alan Clayton on 2022-03-30 at 10:03am

Social content platform OnlyFans has reportedly engaged in talks with multiple SPACs, but has so far failed to seal the deal, according to a report in Axios.

The influencer platform, which is known primarily for hosting explicit sexual content, projected it could swell its income to $1.2 billion in 2021 and $2.5 billion in a March 2021 pitch deck reportedly obtained by the news service. But, SPAC teams were turned off by the adult nature of its business, and the company carries additional governance risks.

A portion of the company’s motivation for a SPAC deal or private capital raise last Spring was to cash out its controversial majority-owner Leo Radvinsky. Radvinksy, who is a first-generation immigrant from Ukraine, ran some enterprises in his earlier career that were particularly shady even by the standards of the porn industry. Some funds have agreements preventing them from investing in adult content, and the legal risk of minors or exploited individuals being involved in content was perceived as too high, although OnlyFans claims to have systems in place to prevent that from occurring.

For this combination of factors, most venture capital firms during this fundraising push reportedly walked away before even peeking under the sheets, but at least one SPAC stayed for a dance or two.

OnlyFans reportedly pitched Forest Road II (NYSE:FRXB) among others, but those talks have since broken off as the team reportedly “couldn’t get past the porn.” Forest Road II would have made a logical match for the platform however, as its team includes officers with deep media experience including stops at the leadership of TikTok, Disney+ (NYSE:DIS) and Spotify (NYSE:SPOT).

This past year has also shown that controversial social platforms do bring all the retail investors to the yard. Look no further than the share prices of Digital World (NASDAQ:DWAC) and CF VI (NASDAQ:CFVI) as they work to combine with right-wing social content platforms Trump Media and Rumble. Adult content is a different animal, of course, but the expression is not “sex doesn’t sell.”

Still, the failure of OnlyFan’s 2021 fundraising campaign seemed to provoke a course-correction towards banning explicit content in August, a move it then pulled out of days later. The company is now working to diversify its base of creators away from explicit content, but it is still clear that the platform, which includes more than 7 million subscribers was built on sex. Even if a greater share of its content becomes fully-clothed, it will still have its own brand reputation to contend with.

That puts it in a bit of a bind, as it will need a liquidity event to shake up its ownership, but may find it impossible to completely shake the queasiness of investors to make that happen. The Russia-Ukraine war added new risk perceptions to OnlyFans’ books as much of the company’s employees are based in Ukraine and many are now displaced.

Nonetheless, at a time when the market is saturated with SPACs looking for a smaller number of viable targets, it does seem like a team would eventually give in to OnlyFans’ advances. Axios reports that the OnlyFans expected to host $12.5 billion in gross merchandise volume in 2022 and fits the trend of internet users gravitating more towards platforms like InstaGram, Patreon and Twitch where they can engage with and directly sponsor their favorite creators.

 

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