NEW BILLIONAIRE: GONZO GOLD RUSH

Shane Smith’s wild, un­con­ven­tional Vice Me­dia has be­come a Mil­len­nial fa­vorite and a hot in­vest­ment.

Forbes - - CONTENTS -

For Vice Me­dia’s Shane Smith, sex, drugs and war­fare were the path to a three-comma for­tune.

Good news ar­rived last month for Shane Smith, the CEO and co­founder of Vice Me­dia. An­other mon­ster fund­ing round—some $450 mil­lion—at the hands of pri­vate equity gi­ant TPG put a lofty $5.7 bil­lion val­u­a­tion on the com­pany. It was just enough to turn Smith into a billionaire thanks to his roughly 20% stake, Forbes es­ti­mates.

Vice be­gan life as a com­mu­nity mag­a­zine in Mon­treal but started to evolve in the 2000s once Smith saw “ev­ery­one was spend­ing all their money on plat­forms”— such as Hulu—“but none of it on what you put in the pipe,” he re­called in a 2012

Forbes in­ter­view. “So we said, okay, even­tu­ally the mar­ket’s go­ing to catch up, and ev­ery­one’s go­ing to need con­tent.”

Vice to­day has a news web­site beloved by younger read­ers, a 24-hour ca­ble tele­vi­sion chan­nel and an on­go­ing HBO do­cuseries cov­er­ing its re­porters’ ex­ploits in hot spots in­clud­ing Iraq, North Korea and Rus­sia. Those jour­nal­ists pro­duce raw, rol­lick­ing sto­ries un­apolo­get­i­cally laced with an ul­tra­l­ib­eral point of view. Put an­other way: If this were a Vice story, its head­line would prob­a­bly read some­thing like “How to Make a Bil­lion Dol­lars Hawk­ing Sex, Drugs and War to Mil­len­ni­als.”

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