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Spotify Is Buying The Ringer

Nearly four years after breaking away from a large company to run his own digital operation, Bill Simmons is going back into business with a corporate behemoth.

The Ringer, the website and podcasting network founded by Mr. Simmons in 2016, will soon become the property of Spotify, the companies said on Wednesday. The terms of the deal, which is expected to close by the end of the first quarter, were not disclosed.

Mr. Simmons, a writer, sports commentator, podcaster and internet entrepreneur, started The Ringer after he left ESPN in a bitter dispute. As an employee of the sports media giant, he founded the sports and culture website Grantland. He also had a hand in the creation of the network’s “30 for 30” documentary series.

ESPN did not renew his contract in 2015 and closed Grantland months later. The Ringer was originally on the digital platform Medium and switched to Vox Media under a partnership announced in 2017.

The site has a lineup of more than 30 podcasts, including “The Bill Simmons Podcast” and “The Rewatchables.” It publishes original articles daily and houses a video network, a film production division and a book imprint. Last year, Mr. Simmons told The Wall Street Journal that the site was profitable. In a statement on Wednesday, Mr. Simmons said he believed that “Spotify can take us to another level.”

In addition to announcing the agreement to buy The Ringer, Spotify reported a 29 percent rise in paid subscribers for its audiostreaming services in the fourth quarter of 2019, to 124 million, giving it a significant lead over its main rival, Apple.

The company, which has its headquarters in Stockholm, has been moving away from its identity as a music-streaming service. Last year it acquired three podcast companies, including Gimlet Media, the maker of the podcasts “Crimetown” and “Reply All.”

Dawn Ostroff, chief content officer of Spotify, said The Ringer, with its many sports podcasts, would drive the company’s “global sports strategy.”

The union representing The Ringer employees, the Writers Guild of America, East, expressed concern about the deal when it was in negotiations, which came to light in a Jan. 17 article in The Wall Street Journal.

Many of the site’s staff members have nothing to do with what Spotify is known for — audio. Shortly after the deal was announced, the union released a statement saying it looked forward to hearing from management on how the deal would affect “day-to-day work.”

“We anticipate a productive relationship with new management for all Ringer staff members: podcasters, writers, editors, illustrators, fact checkers, copy editors, social media editors, and video and audio producers,” the union said in a statement.

Marc Tracy contributed reporting.

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