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Condé Nast’s parent made a $2 billion windfall from Reddit’s IPO. Now come the uncomfortable questions

Sign up for the daily digest chronicling the evolving media landscape here. New York CNN  —  Executives at Advance Publications are likely popping champagne bottles. But as they sip on their celebratory bubbly they are now being confronted with some uncomfortable questions. The S.I. Newhouse-founded media company, which owns the Condé Nast suite of prestigious magazines and local news outlets across the country, netted approximately $2.1 billion on Thursday when Reddit went public on the New York Stock Exchange in a long-awaited blockbuster IPO. The social media company, which priced its offering at $34 a share, rocketed 48% on its first day, closing above $50 in an impressive public debut for the 20-year-old message board platform. It’s quite a return on an investment for Advance, which acquired the “front page of the internet” for a mere $10 million in 2006, before spinning it off in 2011 and allowing others to invest in the digital forum. Reddit Inc. signage is displayed on a smartphone in an arranged photograph taken in the Brooklyn borough of New York, U.S., on Tuesday, June 30, 2020. Gabby Jones/Bloomberg/Getty Images Related article Welcome to the market, RDDT! Reddit stock jumps on first day as a public company The windfall, however, comes at a notable time for the company. Like other media giants facing existential headwinds, Advance’s publications have endured a sustained downturn in digital advertising and seen traffic from social media platforms decline, prompting uncomfortable belt-tightening and scaled-back ambitions. Condé Nast has for months been engaged in a standoff with its union. The company announced in November that it planned to lay off 94 staffers, or roughly 5% of its workforce. (It has said it will keep operating costs consistent with the last three years, but that it wants to invest in different areas, necessitating the layoffs.) Tensions have only escalated since then. Condé Nast boss Roger Lynch told Axios’ Sara Fischer earlier this month that, while it missed its revenue target, there were no plans for further layoffs. But the Condé Union said this week that management had effectively gone back on its word and added another five staffers to its layoff list, inflaming already high emotions and prompting renewed protests Wednesday outside Lynch’s office. While Advance cannot sell its shares for six months, laying off staffers as it reaps billions of dollars from Reddit’s IPO would present, at minimum, an optics problem for Condé Nast, which has been bruised in recent months during union negotiations. The earnings also offer a few uncomfortable questions for the company. Will Advance go through with such cuts while it rains cash over at company headquarters? How can Advance expect Condé Nast management to push through with painful layoffs while the parent company experiences a gold rush? I asked representatives for Advance on Thursday if the $2 billion+ windfall it stood to reap had given it any second thoughts on allowing Condé Nast to move forward with the layoffs. As you might expect, representatives for the company were not too keen on answering such questions. My multiple emails went unreturned. But the IPO bonanza has certainly secured the attention of employees at Condé Nast. And it is sure to be a factor as the union continues contract negotiations with management. While Advance is remaining mum about the massive sum it has made on its Reddit bet, the union is already speaking out. “The fact that billions of dollars in wealth poured into Advance as we continue to fight for jobs illustrates where Condé Nast’s priorities are,” Susan DeCarava, president of The NewsGuild of New York, told me. “Management needs to stop investing in threats and start investing in the concerns of the workers who power the company’s success.”