By Anjali Athavaley and Melissa Fares
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Most business merger stories have no need for a "this is not a joke" disclaimer, but this one did: Spanish-language media giant Univision Communications Inc [UVN.UL] announced a deal on Tuesday to buy a stake in humor website "The Onion."
There was instant social media outpouring about what the future holds for a site whose satirical news stories skewer topics from gun ownership in the United States to the cliched dullness of media articles about ordinary people.
La cebolla - Spanish for the onion - prompted some of the wit. "Univision buys controlling stake in the @TheOnion. Will now be called El Cebolla. Americans outraged at more jobs moving out of the country," tweeted @charles_monsoon.
Univision said it acquired a stake in digital media company Onion Inc, which also owns parody site ClickHole and digital video network Onion Studios, as part of its efforts to expand its reach among a younger audience and bolster its comedy portfolio. In a statement, the company gave few details of the transaction but extolled the growing role of comedy in culture and the exchange of ideas, paying the satirical site a serious compliment.
"The Onion has been, and continues to be, a leading force of this phenomenon of intellectual, social, cultural and satirical commentary online," said Isaac Lee, Univision's chief news and digital officer and CEO of Fusion. Fusion is a multicultural media company co-founded by Univision and Walt Disney Co.
According to NPR, which earlier reported the news, Univision has acquired a controlling stake.
The Onion's reputation for satire initially prompted Twitter users to ask, "Really?"
News outlets sought to clarify that it was true. NPR (@NPR) tweeted: "Area Satiric Publication The Onion Sold To Univision (Seriously)."
Some on Twitter pondered what a combined company might look like.
“Now that Univision bought @TheOnion, it's only a matter of time before it merges with Fusion to become Funion,” tweeted Forbes reporter Ryan Mac (@RMac18).
Others said that Univision ownership could mean trouble for The Onion, given a squabble last August when Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump ejected Univision anchor Jorge Ramos from a press conference after he tried to ask a question.
"After learning it was purchased by Univision, Donald Trump vows to build a 'great wall' around The Onion," tweeted Chuck Edwards (@ItsChuckEdwards), referring to Trump's proposal to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.
The Onion's website on Tuesday included a piece on Iranian nuclear scientists flushing enriched uranium down the toilet and a classically mock parochial article about people in Raleigh, North Carolina commenting on the number of bugs in their homes.
(Reporting by Anjali Athavaley and Melissa Fares; Editing by Frances Kerry)