NEW BILLIONAIRE: GONZO GOLD RUSH
Shane Smith’s wild, unconventional Vice Media has become a Millennial favorite and a hot investment.
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.”