Pornhub owner MindGeek sold to private equity firm

Buyer Ethical Capital Partners targets industries requiring ‘principled ethical leadership’

The company behind the website Pornhub, which has been accused of hosting illegal content, has been sold to a Canadian private equity firm for an undisclosed sum.

MindGeek, the subject of a new Netflix documentary that charts the controversies surrounding the pornography site, has been acquired by Ethical Capital Partners (ECP), a firm that targets industries requiring “principled ethical leadership”.

Last year, the chief executive and chief operating officer of MindGeek resigned after an investigation in the New Yorker found non-consensual and underage videos have appeared on Pornhub. However, the company denied the resignations were linked to the article and said it had “comprehensive and effective” content policies.

“We are engaged with the team at MindGeek and with stakeholders, including content creators, advocates, law enforcement, civil society partners and policymakers to inform our efforts and strengthen MindGeek’s secure platforms, going beyond legal and regulatory obligations,” said Solomon Friedman, ECP’s founding partner.

Friedman told the Financial Times that criticism of MindGeek, as well as lawsuits targeting the company, reflected a misunderstanding of the company’s content safeguards. MindGeek, which is headquartered in Luxembourg but has its main office in Montreal, Canada, claims to have more than 115 million daily visitors to sites that also include YouPorn and Brazzers.

“I want to engage regularly with stakeholders, including the media,” he said. Friedman added that MindGeek’s current executive team would continue to run the company but declined to reveal their identities to the FT.

“At this point we are not identifying the current executives, as there is an unfortunate stigma [attached to the industry],” he said.

ECP’s advisory board includes a former adult industry professional and an academic specialising in the pornography industry. The firm, founded last year, is chaired by Rocco Meliambro, who founded Canada’s largest cannabis retailer, and one of the partners is a retired chief superintendent of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Pornhub was cut off by Visa and Mastercard’s payment networks in 2020 after investigations that identified unlawful content on the platform.

MindGeek has since said that Mastercard reinstated access to its subscription sites but both the payments firms suspended ties with the company’s advertisement arm, TrafficJunky, after a lawsuit raised questions over whether they could be facilitating the distribution of explicit underage material. Visa said it does not permit the use of its payment network for illegal activity, while Mastercard said it had “zero tolerance” for illegal activity.

In the UK, online pornography publishers including MindGeek will be required to introduce strict age checks under the forthcoming online safety bill, which requires adult content platforms to prevent children from accessing their material.


Dan Milmo Global technology editor

The GuardianTramp

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