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Joe bought out of administration and to be run by former Unilad executives


Social news website has been bought out of administration by venture capital firm Greencastle Capital and will be run by two former Unilad executives.

London’s Iconic Labs, with Unilad founders Liam Harrington and John Quinlan at the helm, has signed a deal to manage all parts of the Joe business for a monthly management fee of £50,000 plus external costs.

It will also receive 25% of profits if certain revenue and profit targets are met. Joe Media was put into administration in May.

Harrington, Iconic’s Chief Business Officer, said he and Quinlan would “transfer the skills used to build one of the world’s largest digital publishers in Unilad and use them to grow and develop in Joe Media what is already a prestigious brand with an offering that is unique and unrivalled in quality within the market”.

He added: “We have many unused plans that can now be rolled out to help Joe Media further develop further as the market leader within the digital space in the UK and Ireland. 

We also intend to look at joint ventures or other opportunities with existing broadcast media.”Iconic Chief Executive Quinlan told Press Gazette that they wanted to build on Joe’s news content and combine its “credible tone” with the techniques they used to make Unilad the biggest social media publisher in the world.

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Iconic Labs

“The news and that credible tone of voice and the way they cover it I think is one of the main strengths of the brand. We’re going to build on that if anything,” he said.

“I think actually now more than ever people are really interested in the news so it’s something that not only is it really important from a brand point of view it actually makes a lot of sense from a business point of view to invest in that part.”

“The credibility of the [Joe] brands means they can be their own thing and make money in lots of different ways and that’s how it has to work these days.”

Greencastle Capital is also expecting to complete its acquisition of Joe Media in Ireland – a separate entity from the UK brand – within the next two months.

The eventual plan is to combine the businesses into a single structure to reduce costs and create a “more disciplined focus on revenue capture” so that Joe can return to profitability by next year.

The UK business has around 50 to 60 employees and Joe opened a Manchester football office in 2018, which it said would house 25 to 30 staff.

A judge ordered viral Manchester-based news website Unilad to go into administration in 2018 after being told it owed more than £6m. It was subsequently bought by rival Ladbible.

Quinlan told Press Gazette: “There’s things that Unilad did incredibly well in terms of scale. It was the biggest social media publisher in the world, so in terms of getting distribution of content we’re excellent at that.

“When you look at Joe and compare it to Unilad it was a different brand with a different audience and a different tone. We were pushing Unilad towards having a credible tone. We didn’t have a chance to finish the job but that was always the ambition.

“So now we have the credibility of Joe with the chance to get more eyeballs. Joe has great content, we just want more people to see it.”

Iconic Labs launched as a new media and tech division of Manchester stem cell research company WideCells last March.

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