By Chris Morris
Fast Company Magazine
Three weeks after buying back Barstool Sports for $1, founder Dave Portnoy has begun trimming the payroll, with one report saying nearly 100 positions have been eliminated.
Portnoy confirmed the layoffs in a video, but did not give a precise number of people who would be impacted. Barstool had roughly 430 people on its payroll prior to the layoffs.
While news of the cutbacks is not surprising—when Portnoy took the site over from Penn Entertainment, he’d publicly stated they were coming—the extent of the downsizing was unexpected.
Portnoy said in a video he posted to YouTube on Tuesday: “I’ve been very clear. Anybody that’s paid attention, we are going to have layoffs and cuts, and they’ve started, and it sucks. And people who know me from the beginning [know] I hate firing people. You can be incompetent, not work, and I generally don’t fire because I hate it so much. It’s the worst thing to f***ing do. Having said that, we’re in a position [where] it’s a no-brainer.”
Penn Entertainment sold Barstool back to Portnoy after entering into a deal with ESPN to rebrand its online sports-betting business. Portnoy did not detail the state of the company’s finances, but in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Penn said the site had posted a net loss of $16.1 million in the first six months of the year.
All totaled, Penn said it expected to take a loss of up to $850 million in handing Barstool back to its founder. In the video on Barstool’s YouTube channel, Portnoy aggressively defended the layoffs, saying, “We have to get back to a break-even thing. We’re losing a lot and it sucks.”
Portnoy’s brusque tone in the video brought to mind some of Elon Musk’s statements in the early days of his Twitter takeover, when he laid off a significant percentage of the workforce and demanded those who remained would have to work a lot harder on an ongoing basis.
Portnoy mocked an employee who expressed concern about the dismissal of one affected worker and said those who remain with the company will have to “step the f**k up.” He also predicted that with news of the layoffs, he will have plenty of people volunteering to work for free.
“I’ll be flooded now with [notes saying] I’ll replace everybody,” he said.
Remote employees seem to have been a focus of the layoffs as Barstool looks to get back to its trademark mixture of a polarizing TMZ-like reality television, where everything from sports to porn is discussed and office arguments make it to air.
“Dave bought the company back, [and] Barstool’s back to being what it is when it’s at its best—and that’s a reality show. To be part of the reality show, you gotta be in one of the offices,” said Will Burge, a former podcaster who was impacted by the layoffs, in a tweet. “So obviously, it doesn’t make sense to have a remote employee who is not a part of the main product that Barstool is pushing at this point.”
Despite the losses and the layoffs, Portnoy says he expects to be able to turn things around and build the site back up to its former levels of profitability.
“I can get back in control of this thing—it may be rough for a couple months getting things back to where we’re not getting f***ing smoked, but I think I could make this a good place to work,” Portnoy said earlier this month.
Portnoy has never been afraid of the spotlight. Two years ago, after he claimed to have lost $700,000 in meme stocks, Portnoy inserted himself in the drama surrounding Robinhood, calling the CEO of that stock trading company a “rat” and a “liar,” before engaging him in a livestreamed debate.
He also went viral this week for a heated encounter with a pizza shop owner in Massachusetts during a pizza review.
Barstool Pizza Review – Dragon Pizza (Somerville, MA) The Worst Pizza Place in America pic.twitter.com/gBNqmg87Go— Dave Portnoy (@stoolpresidente) September 1, 2023
He also chimed in on Donald Trump’s indictment earlier this year, saying, “Anybody who thinks going after Trump for [sic] paying a porn star to keep her mouth sh[u]t about an old affair is a good use of time or taxpayer dollars is a political pawn and can’t be trusted to give a fair opinion on anything,” Portnoy wrote. In 2021, he jokingly announced a run for president that never materialized.
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