Skip to main content

The chief executive officer and chief operating officer of MindGeek, the parent company of controversial adult entertainment website Pornhub, have resigned after more than a decade of being at the helm of the pornography giant.

CEO Feras Antoon and COO David Tassillo, both of whom are co-owners of MindGeek alongside the reclusive Austrian businessman Bernd Bergmair, left their positions on Tuesday, according to a company statement. They remain shareholders.

Alongside the management changes, two sources with close links to the company said that MindGeek had begun laying off a number of its staff, in an attempt to cut costs after suffering revenue declines since 2020. The sources said that Mr. Antoon, Mr. Tassillo and Mr. Bergmair still retain majority ownership and that they intend to maintain majority shareholder control.

The Globe and Mail is not identifying the sources because they are not authorized to speak publicly about the company.

MindGeek did not respond specifically to The Globe’s queries on how many employees the company had laid off and whether the layoffs were effective immediately. But on Twitter, a number of MindGeek employees said they had been laid off in a Tuesday morning meeting.

It has been a turbulent 18 months for the Luxembourg-based company (whose main office is in Montreal). It has been hit with multiple lawsuits across different jurisdictions from women who allege that Pornhub and its affiliate adult websites published non-consensual sex videos that sometimes featured underaged girls.

The lawsuits were sparked by multiple media reports, including a December, 2020, story by then-New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, which detailed accounts of sexual assaults on teenaged girls that were recorded and uploaded to Pornhub.

A slew of advertisers subsequently distanced themselves from Pornhub including, crucially, Visa and Mastercard, which enabled users to pay for adult content.

MindGeek employs roughly 1,200 people and operates some of the most popular paid and free porn websites in the world, including Pornhub, YouPorn and RedTube.

The company statement said that MindGeek’s executive leadership team will “run day-to-day operations on an interim basis” while searching for replacements for the top two executive roles. The plan to transition Mr. Tassillo and Mr. Antoon from their roles had been in development since early 2022, the company said.

MindGeek’s main source of revenue, according to a 2021 presentation deck to investors viewed by The Globe, comes from its “tube” sites – Pornhub, RedTube, YouPorn and Brazzers. The company also generates revenue from its paid sites and gaming division.

The company pitch deck, made when MindGeek was considering selling parts of the company, showed that its projected annual revenue for 2021 was US$574-million. In 2020, the company generated US$731-million in revenue.

MindGeek did not respond to a request for comment on how much the company earned in 2021, and what its projected revenue for 2022 was.

But the company said it receives 150 million global visitors daily. A recent New Yorker feature on MindGeek said that it received approximately 4.5 billion visits each month in 2020, almost double that of Google and Facebook combined. And the company’s operations are not just confined to adult entertainment – it owns TrafficJunky, an ad network that says it serves as many as 4.6 billion ad impressions everyday on porn sites.

Last year, The Globe reported that MindGeek received bids from multiple groups of investors to buy the company, but all of the bids were rejected by the company’s biggest shareholder, Mr. Bergmair. One of the bids was made by Chuck Rifici, a serial entrepreneur in the cannabis sector who co-founded Canopy Growth Corp.

At the time, Mr. Tassillo and Mr. Antoon were reportedly keen on entertaining bids to buy the company, but Mr. Bergmair ultimately put an end to discussions because he was reluctant to give up ownership in the event of a sale.

In their statement about Mr. Antoon and Mr. Tassillo’s departures, MindGeek said that the company is beginning to “invest deeply” in expanding “creator-first offerings,” and currently provides “hundreds of thousands of models with the opportunity to earn a living.”

MindGeek’s litigation troubles appear to persist. In April, the personal injury law firm Diamond & Diamond Corp. launched a $500-million class-action lawsuit against MindGeek, claiming that Pornhub failed to “properly screen sexual content” uploaded to its site.

Six months before this suit, the company settled another lawsuit, brought by 50 women – including three Canadians – who alleged that MindGeek profited from videos published without their consent. The terms of the settlement were not made public.

MindGeek repeatedly says it takes internet safety and content moderation seriously, and noted in its Tuesday statement that it is the first major porn platform to require users to submit government-issued identification that passes third-party verification in order to upload content to its sites.

Your time is valuable. Have the Top Business Headlines newsletter conveniently delivered to your inbox in the morning or evening. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

Check Following for new articles

Interact with The Globe