Ronn Torossian
Ronn Torossian

Vice Media CEO and co-founder Shane Smith announced last week that he’s stepping down from the top slot at the digital media and broadcasting company, abdicating in favor of A+E Networks president and CEO Nancy Dubuc.

Don’t expect Smith to go very far just because he’s leaving the top spot. Media reports expect him to transition to the role of executive chairman, where he can “focus on strategic deals and content development …”

In his own statement, Smith heaped praise on his successor, calling his working relationship with Dubuc a “perfect partnership.”

Dubuc also presented a very complimentary and positive position as she took the job: “Shane and the team at Vice have done what all of us aspire to do — build a brand and make content that people really care about … Vice speaks to a generation that defines today’s cultural conversation, and the opportunity to partner with all of the incredibly creative people across the entire company was one of those rare moments in a career.”

A further statement from the company extolled Vice’s future, saying the media company was experiencing “record growth” and was in the position to “further its position as the industry vanguard …”

That rosy outlook may not quite be shared by investors. Vice reportedly missed its revenue target last year by about $100 million, and that’s just the fiscal bad news. Vice is also dealing with its own entry into the #MeToo movement, after allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate workplace conduct being leveled at several key decision makers.

After the New York Times published a story about the allegations, Smith and other executives apologized for what they, personally, described as a “detrimental boy’s club culture” that “fostered inappropriate behavior …”

None of those allegations were leveled against Smith, but he admitted to being a part of a culture that may have encouraged the behavior in question. There were investigations, rumors and firings, and it has yet to be determined if Smith’s newfound position is a response to the allegations. Smith offered another statement last week, hoping to head off that line of questioning and bury that narrative before it had a chance to pick up steam:

“First off, (Dubuc) is better than me at everything … Second, (the move) allows me to concentrate on the only things that I am good at — content and deals. Thirdly, as we go forward VICE needs a best-in-class management team to harness all of this growth and control our own destiny, where it be staying independent, strategically partnering with someone or going public. Lastly, I get to work with one of my best friends and media heroes …”

It’s an enthusiastic position, typical of Smith. Time will tell if it is enough of an answer for the critics and skeptics.


Ronn Torossian is CEO of PR firm 5WPR.