Shane Smith’s counterculture origins might suggest he should find life as a multi-millionaire uncomfortable, but he seems to have taken to it in style. To wit: In 2015, he paid US$23 million for a 12-bedroom, 14,000-square-foot home in Santa Monica, Calif., without ever having visited the site.
Vice Media has seen its valuation grow at a feverish pace. Smith started Vice as a print magazine with Suroosh Alvi and Gavin McInnes in Montreal more than two decades ago; with Smith at the helm as CEO, it’s now a multi-platform content mill with a reported audience of between 250 million and 300 million people a month, many of them members of Generation Y. Smith made his money by convincing an older generation that Vice knows millennials better than they could ever hope to, and that pitch has worked: Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox paid US$70 million for a 5% stake of Vice in 2013, and Rogers Communications (which owns Canadian Business) inked a $100 million partnership. Smith has gained access to everyone from outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. In June, Smith announced a bold expansion plan that will see Vice launch new TV, mobile and digital services in 50 countries, including markets in Africa, the Middle East, India and Southeast Asia, many of which will be run as joint ventures with established media players.
Long-time rumblings that Smith would take Vice public have yet to become reality, but that could soon change. Smith has hinted that the company will very soon have to decide whether its future will lie in acquisition or an IPO. A US$450 million round of funding from TPG Capital, announced in June may signal the latter. Whatever the move may be, Smith is adamant that the company’s prospects are bright: As he told a reporter on CNBC’s Closing Bell last summer, “It’s the best time in history to be a content creator.”
Updated Thursday, November 9, 2017