VaynerMedia Taps Tumblr Exec Amid Plans to Grow but Not Sell

Vaynerchuk Says Holding Companies Wouldn't Pay the Premium He'd Ask

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Gary Vaynerchuk
Gary Vaynerchuk

VaynerMedia has hired Tumblr Agency Development Lead Ari Levine to run new business as the 400-person digital shop maps out plans to grow.

"The agency is quite large, but it doesn't have a [structured] new business department," said VaynerMedia CEO Gary Vaynerchuk, agency co-founder and entrepreneur. "We had no lead. This is the first sign of us being on the offense on new business."

It's part of a larger plan, also including the recent investment in a more robust HR team, to quickly grow from 400 to 1,000 employees, and then perhaps add another few thousand. Unlike plenty of shops on the make, however, Mr. Vaynerchuk said the agency is not building toward a sale.

"My belief is I won't end up selling Vayner because nobody can ever pay me enough," he said. The argument is that he doesn't need to sell for cash after making a number of sound investments in companies including Facebook, Tumblr, Buddy Media and Birchbox. So he'd ask for a price that no sound acquirer would pay.

"Can I sell?" he said. "Of course, but I have too much respect for the CFO rigor of the holding companies to ever come close to that price -- it's whatever the greatest multiple on EBIDTA and revenue ever created in the agency world is, times ten."

Mr. Vaynerchuk is also the man behind Wine Library TV and tech seed fund VaynerRSE. VaynerMedia, founded by Mr. Vaynerchuk and his brother A.J., grew revenue 57% to $22.5 million in 2013 and expects to nearly double revenue in 2014, the shop said early this year.

More enticing than selling for Mr. Vaynerchuk, he said, would be growing the shop to a 4,000-person global agency that can also support another future investment and brand. "At the highest levels, I want to buy the New York Jets," he half-joked.

For now, he'll focus on building an infrastructure "to check boxes to be in categories we don't play in" and think about ways to avoid conflicts as the shop aims to grow, Mr. Vaynerchuk said. The shop has begun exploring new service categories, recently starting an events arm called Vayner Live, and a social-insights group called Wingman.

Acquisitions are also top-of-mind, he said.

Mr. Levine joins the shop with no agency experience, following in the footsteps of Mr. Vaynerchuk and the shop's first 20 employees.

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