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OnlyFans halts fundraising efforts after banning, then re-allowing, sexual content

August 27, 2021, 2:53 PM UTC

OnlyFans has put its fundraising efforts on hiatus, following a volatile week that saw the subscription site announce plans to ban sexually explicit content, only to reverse that decision six days later. And industry insiders are increasingly suspicious the whole affair was a publicity stunt.

The company hired merchant bank the Raine Group over a month ago to reach out to venture capitalists and other investors. Business Insider, though, says those plans are now in neutral.

OnlyFans was founded in 2016 by British businessman Tim Stokely, but a majority ownership stake was purchased two years later by Leo Radvinsky, one of the most powerful people in the porn industry and the founder of MyFreeCams, a wildly successful site where models make money by stripping and performing solo sex acts in front of a computer webcam, while hundreds—often thousands—of people watch live online, paying anywhere from token amounts to major cash outlays.

Radvinsky reportedly was ready to cash out of OnlyFans, and that was the impetus behind the hunt for cash. (The company’s pitch deck showed it to be highly profitable, with net revenue of $375 million last year and an expected $1.2 billion this year.)

Venture capital firms and banks, though, all quickly passed on the offer, owing to the site’s sex-friendly content. On Aug. 19, Axios published the pitch deck, and the ban on sexually explicit content was announced by OnlyFans a few hours later.

That’s curious timing. And several performers and executives in the adult industry tell Fortune they believe the high-profile announcement was meant to generate publicity for the company. (All asked that their names not be used because they feared it could impact their income.)

If so, it certainly worked. OnlyFans has been a trending topic on Twitter for much of the past week. And a sizable percentage of the comments have been in support of the sex workers who make up most of the content creators on OnlyFans.

The move could, however, backfire on the company. Sex workers feel betrayed by the announcement and were wary of the wording used to explain the company’s reversal on Wednesday.

OnlyFans has, for years, been an important source of income for adult performers. Maitland Ward, the former Boy Meets World cast member who is now an adult superstar, earned over $1 million in just six hours and claims to earn six figures a month from OnlyFans. And, per the site’s pitch deck, over 300 creators make more than $1 million per year.

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