Areasman, Twilio co-founder Jeff Lawson buys The Onion

Jeff Lawson, the co-founder and recently departed CEO of enterprise infrastructure software company Twilio, is the proud new owner of the satirical online newspaper The Onion.

“Okay, the news is out – yes, I bought The Onion,” Lawson wrote in a LinkedIn message late Thursday, afterward it emerged for the first time in The New York Times Thursday.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Considered by many to be “America's Best News Source,” The Onion is a digital media institution that has been spoon-feeding satire for more than thirty years, first as a weekly print edition starting in 1988, then as an online outlet starting in 1996 with the physical publication ended in 2013. The parody stories were often merged with real news, but The Onion has become a staple of the digital media landscape for its 'alternative' takes on some of the world's biggest events – some real, some completely made up — spawning memes like “Area man'while mimicking the reporting style of more traditional news outlets.

“Our stupid century”

The Onion has counted several owners over the years (Elon Musk was apparently interested at one point), including Spanish-language broadcaster Univision, which acquired a majority stake in 2016. It then sold it, along with Gizmodo, to private equity firm Great Hill Partners in 2019which created a new media holding company called G/O Media Inc.

Now The Onion has ended up in the hands of a new Chicago-based company called Global Tetrahedron, which is actually a reference to a fictional company featured in a satirical book published by The Onion staff in 1999 called “Our stupid century.”

The brains behind the new Global Tetrahedron is Jeff Lawson, who co-founded Twilio in 2008 as a way to help companies easily integrate communications features, such as texting and calling, into their apps through an application programming interface (API). The company went public in 2016 with a valuation of more than $1 billion, reaching nearly $70 billion during the pandemic – before settling into the $10 to $15 billion range in recent years.

Lawson announced in January that he would be resigning from Twilio, and since then he has been “pursuing personal goals” as part of a career break, according to his LinkedIn profile.

But why would Lawson want to buy The Onion? Well, because he likes it and he has the means to buy it.

“The Onion is an institution, a national treasure, and we need it,” Lawson said in his announcement post. “But its success is based on something different than most media companies. The Onion, like most of the Internet, is oppressed by byzantine cookie dialogues, paywalls, bizarre advertising, and clickbait content. And we've had enough. The internet sucks, and it's time we improve it. It is time to focus again on customers – end users.”

Lawson assures us there will be more to come in the future – new products, new media – but for now he's asking everyone to put some money aside for the cause. At the time of writing it is The onion homepage is littered with “breaking news” and “trending” stories all about this takeover, with Lawson asking those who share his mission to donate exactly $1. Back for nothing.

“If you care about The Onion, if The Onion has ever made you laugh – give us a dime,” Lawson wrote. 'For that dollar you get… nothing at all. Just the smug feeling that once again you've spent less on The Onion in your life than it's worth.

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