It was around 2011 when Isaac Lee, then a 40-year-old news executive at the Spanish-language broadcaster Univision, saw the writing on the wall, and it read: multicultural millennials. So Lee and Univision made a bold, some thought outlandish, series of bets. It all began with Fusion, a general-interest Web site and corresponding cable channel launched in 2012 and 2013, respectively, in partnership with Disney’s ABC. The enterprise generated buzz by nabbing big-name recruits with big salaries. (Felix Salmon, the financial columnist, was reportedly making more than $400,000 a year, likely a multiple of what he would have earned at another digital-first player.) Over the next several years, Lee got Univision to buy a handful of other buzzy Web properties (The Root, The Onion, A.V. Club), while also creating a few new Web properties of its own (Project Earth, TrackRecord, The Takeout).
Fusion, which was wholly acquired by Univision in 2016 as losses from the cable channel piled up, endured some struggles with audience growth and, less tangibly, the conundrum of people not quite understanding what it was trying to do or be. But Lee, the empire builder, forged ahead. His biggest coup was the August 2016 acquisition of a half dozen orphaned Gawker Media brands, including Gizmodo, Jezebel, and Deadspin.