The Messenger Sports logo. ( The Messenger Sports logo.

While startup news outlet The Messenger’s initial focus was on news and politics around their launch last May, they quickly made a splash in the sports world. In September, they added prominent college basketball writers and personalities Seth Davis and Jeff Goodman. Other sports hires there have included college football writer Ryan Nanni, sports and pop culture writer Arash Markazi, NFL writer Mike Tanier, former FiveThirtyEight editor Neil Paine, football writer Kaelen Jones, longtime New York Daily News sportswriter Christian Red, and more.

But there have long been questions about how much money The Messenger has. They have a lot of big names (especially on the politics side), and those don’t come cheap. And president Richard Beckman reportedly said the company was “out of money” in an internal meeting in September, although that reporting was disputed by a company spokesperson and by some of those at the company then.

And now, the finances at The Messenger are under discussion again. Benjamin Mullin of The New York Times reported Tuesday that the company plans to lay off around two dozen employees this week “as it faced dwindling cash reserves,” although a company spokesperson told Mullin they were amidst a second-round raise (but didn’t offer details). And Beckman announced on LinkedIn Tuesday that he’s leaving at the end of the month, citing health issues and retirement. And, at Semafor Wednesday, Max Tani had an even more disturbing report, writing that a board meeting Friday included discussion that the company would be out of cash by the end of the month and talk of potentially shutting it down entirely or selling it:

The board of the startup news organization The Messenger weighed shutting the publication down at a meeting on Friday, after learning that the company is on track to run out of cash at the end of January.

…Four people briefed on the meeting told Semafor that on Friday, The Messenger summoned its board members to a meeting to debate the future of the news organization. Founder Jimmy Finkelstein and the company’s board discussed the dire state of the company’s finances: At the time, the organization only had enough money to last several more weeks, and would need to make steep cuts and secure additional funding to survive. Two people with knowledge of the details of the meeting also told Semafor that The Messenger could shut down altogether, and that Finkelstein had also expressed a willingness to sell the organization.

A spokesperson for The Messenger rejected the notion that it was in immediate peril, saying that the company had “already secured investment as part of our second raise, and so the notion of us discussing closure is beyond absurd.” The spokesperson did not elaborate on the source of The Messenger’s additional funding.

There’s obviously a significant difference between what Tani’s sources are saying and what the company spokesperson is saying. But even the sources’ claims aren’t necessarily that the outlet is completely doomed; they’re specifically on board discussion of its cash situation and the paths forward that have been discussed. At any rate, though, the layoffs are happening, with many Messenger journalists tweeting Wednesday about being laid off. None of the sports figures mentioned above have yet tweeted about being laid off, though, so it’s unclear if and how these layoffs will hit the sports department.

There have certainly been plenty of outlets either centered on sports or with a significant sports component that have had memorable implosions around finances, FanRag Sports to ONE World Sports to Canadian radio stations. Hopefully The Messenger will not join those. If they do, a whole lot of prominent sports figures will again be looking for work.


About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.