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Pornhub is acquired by Canadian private equity firm Ethical Capital Partners for undisclosed amount


  • Deal announced one day after the release of critical Netflix documentary exposé
  • Exact sums not disclosed in private equity firm acquisition of adult website 

Pornhub’s owners look set to cash in with the sale of parent company MindGeek to Canadian private equity firm Ethical Capital Partners for an undisclosed amount.

The firm, which claims to specialize in tech opportunities that ‘require ethical leadership’, announced the acquisition on its website yesterday.

Financial terms of the transaction have  not been revealed. But ECP say they plan to use their experience to build MindGeek while fighting illegal online content and ensuring ethical practices online.

The sale comes a day after the release of hard-hitting Netflix documentary Money Shot: The Pornhub Story, which focuses on trafficking and exploitation in the industry.

It also comes just months after two top Pornhub executives resigned after the company was accused of hosting sexually explicit nonconsensual videos, including ones involving minors, for years. 

Chief Executive Officer Feras Antoon and Chief Operating Officer David Tassillo  quit after more than a decade running the adult website company. At the time, MindGeek said its executive leadership team would take over day-to-day operations without naming replacements.

Performers, journalists and alleged victims spoke candidly on the new Netflix documentary
Former MindGeek CEO Feras Antoon
Former MindGeek COO David Tassillo

MindGeek, which is headquartered in Luxembourg but has large offices in Montreal, said that with ECP’s support it will ‘further its research and adoption of the latest and best available online safety protocols to ensure that it remains a world-class leader in trust and safety and its platforms are inclusive, sex positive spaces for adults.’ 

Attention focused on Pornhub’s practices after journalist Nicholas Kristof published a column in the New York Times entitled “The Children on Pornhub”, detailing some of the survivor stories of young people whose sexual abuse had been uploaded to the website.

‘[The] site is infested with rape videos. It monetizes child rapes, revenge pornography, spy cam videos of women showering, racist and misogynist content, and footage of women being asphyxiated in plastic bags,’ Kristof wrote. 

READ MORE: Pornhub’s top two executives RESIGN after company was accused of hosting videos showing nonconsensual and underage sex for years 

Pornhub subsequently banned uploads from unverified users.

Mastercard and Visa cut their services to Pornhub in light of the report. 

Its top executives also resigned in 2022 after MindGeek was accused of hosting videos showing nonconsensual and underage sex.

At the time, it was reported that CEO Feras Antoon and COO David Tassillo would remain shareholders of the company, having ran it for over a decade.

Antoon co-founded Brazzers in 2005, joining Tassilo to purchase MindGeek (then called Manwin) in 2012 from German businessman Fabian Thylmann. 

Antoon and Tassillo denied claims their company allowed explicit videos of minors and unconsenting individuals to stay up on their sites. 

It is not clear whether Antoon and Tassillo were still shareholders when MindGeek decided to sell to Ethical Capital Partners, announced the day after the release of Netflix’s documentary.

Documentary maker Suzanne Hillinger worked with Kristof for the one-and-a-half hour Netflix exposé Money Shot, released March 15, which looks into allegations of sex trafficking and rape videos shared on the website.

The film features interviews with performers, activists and past employees and claims to offer ‘a deep dive into the successes and scandals of Pornhub’.

Journalists, whistleblowers and victims of the site’s alleged mismanagement of content speak candidly in the documentary.

Money Shot follows the website from its inception in 2007 to the present, focusing on the difficulty the site has had protecting its creators.

New owners Ethical Capital Partners will hope to ensure high standards, ensuring MindGeek’s platforms ‘are at the forefront of innovation, and trust and safety on the internet, and remain home to an inclusive global community of adult creators, performers, artists and users celebrating creative and sexual expression.’

A press release said ECP would invest in MindGeek as an internet leader in fighting illegal content online, stressing ‘child protection, intimate image security and digital self-determination’. 

The documentary was released on 15 March, a day before ECP announced the acquisition
PayPal also cut services to Pornhub in 2019, claiming ‘certain business payments’ had been made through the site without PayPal’s permission. Outlets claimed the payment platform had ‘long been discriminating against performers’ and claimed thousands would be hurt by it

After Kristof’s report, Pornhub came under more scrutiny in June 2021, slapped with a lawsuit accusing the site of profiting from videos posted online without creator consent, featuring rape, revenge porn and child pornography.

The 179-page lawsuit against Pornhub’s parent company Mindgeek was filed by Brown Rudnick LLP on behalf of 34 unnamed women in California state court.

Michael Bowe, representing the victims, said at the time the industry ‘has operated like an old-school red-light district of commerce where rules that do apply and should be applied haven’t been applied.’ 

In February 2022, an Alabama federal judge denied MindGeek’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought forward on behalf of two victims, originally filed in February 2021. 

Pornhub has efforts to reform online practices. The decision in December 2020 to remove all videos by unverified users cut content from 13millionn to 5million videos.

MindGeek (originally Manwin) was founded by porn mogul Fabian Thylmann in 2004.

The company snapped up Antoon’s creations, Brazzers and YouPorn, in 2010.

But after he was charged with tax evasion in 2012, Thymann sold Manwin to Antoon and David Tassillo for a reported $77 million. 

Antoon served as MindGeek CEO and Tassillo as COO until 2022.

In 2020, Antoon made headlines after his $16 million mega-mansion on Montreal’s ‘Mafia Row’ was burned to rubble in a suspected arson attack. 

He had put the mansion up for sale just weeks before the fire. 

Less is known about his business partner, Tassillo, who was listed on two companies registered in Delaware, Anguilla, and the British Virgin Islands, The Toronto Star reported.

The so-called Panama Papers revealed Tassillo was the sole owner of Appscrutiny LLC and Appiation Management LLC, which were both registered in Delaware.

He also registered Singleron Ltd. in Anguilla, and Teckkix in the British Virgin Islands in 2017.

He reportedly used nominee shareholders and directors to create the companies, which allowed him to hide his identity.

Antoon’s ‘mega mansion’ under construction, close to the Bois de Saraguay park, Montreal
The house was devastated by a fire thought to be caused by arsonists
People look on at the Montreal mansion damaged after the fire

In response to Kristof’s original article, Pornhub said it is ‘irresponsible and flagrantly untrue’ to suggest that it allows images of the sexual abuse of children on its site.

Pornhub added that it employs moderators to screen every upload and that it removes illegal material.

MailOnline approached Ethical Capital Partners for comment. 

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