It pays to go corporate. And when what was once an attempt to connect to a young counterculture audience is now one of the most highly valued companies in all of media, you have definitely gone corporate.
Shane Smith, one of the founders of Vice, profited the most off its ascent. Smith fashions himself as someone with the skill to appeal to a millennial audience in a unique and effective way, but, as a recent New York Magazine article seems to suggest, his greatest skill may have been convincing investors to give large amounts of money to his endeavors.
Vice Media has some surprising investors backing it, including Disney and TPG Capital. Smith, as the CEO through much of its run as well as an on-screen presence, became the face of the operation. But after a rough 2017 for the company thanks to poor Viceland ratings, missing its internal revenue target and a New York Times article detailing allegations of sexual harassment and a dangerously misogynistic culture, Smith stepped down from his role as CEO, moving into an executive chairman role and replaced by former CEO of A+E Networks Nancy Dubuc.
Smith's ability to keep Vice afloat by convincing investors of its appeal to a core audience has made the company a household name. And as CEO for much of its run, it made him an incredibly rich man.
What Is Shane Smith's Net Worth?
Smith's actual, tangible net worth can be hard to pin down, but owning a large percentage of Vice meant that as more and more investors got involved with the company, his worth went higher and higher.
The highest Shane Smith's net worth was reported came in 2017, after TPG Capital invested $450 million. After this news, the approximation of Vice's value was $5.7 billion. As Smith's ownership consists of 20% of the company, it priced his holdings - and thus worth - at more than $1 billion.
Shane Smith & Vice
Today's Vice is a wide array of media that includes journalism and television production. But in 1994, when Smith co-founded it, it was simply a Montreal-based magazine meant for a younger, punk-oriented audience that enjoyed shock humor.
Smith may have wanted a punk aesthetic to match his roots of playing in punk bands throughout Canada, but his skill of salesmanship and sweet-talking investors was decidedly unpunk. That skill, though, grew the company from an independent magazine to a major brand. As Smith convinced more and more investors of Vice's potential, the company changed to meet expectations. Vice got involved in digital marketing and advertising. They began doing more serious journalism, which led to a major extension of the Vice brand.
Vice had been working in television for several years (including an MTV show) before their HBO show premiered in 2013, but it was this program that succeeded most. Vice on HBO gained a new audience for the media company, as well as actual praise for their reporting. In doing this, Smith was given another opportunity to try and expand his company even further.
Shane Smith & Viceland
In November 2015, Vice announced that with one of its biggest investors (Disney, part owner of A+E Networks) it would be launching a new television channel, Viceland. With this channel, Vice would produce dozens of original programs, scripted and unscripted.
Viceland has produced quite a few shows since it began, and recently licensed its content to Hulu for streaming. But the ratings have yet to approach anywhere near the levels Smith boasted it would despite gains from its first year. Ratings were bad enough that in January of 2018, Rogers Communications, Canadian media company, announced it would be pulling Viceland Canada off the air due to a lethal combination of low ratings and poor revenue.
Shane Smith's House
Smith loves to present a larger-than-life persona in pretty much all aspects, so it should come as no surprise that at his net worth he made sure to buy a massive, larger-than-life house.
In 2015, Smith and his wife purchased a Santa Monica mansion known as Villa Ruchello, worth $23 million. A 14,800 square foot property, it required extensive renovation due to a lack of upkeep prior to the purchase.
And, in the most "CEO of Vice" move imaginable, the house had been rented out in the past to shoot scenes of Entourage.