Nancy Dubuc, who took the reins at Vice Media this year after a long run atop A+E Networks, a longtime investor in the young-skewing brand, sees profitability ahead and isn’t daunted by the shadow cast by co-founder Shane Smith.
The executive sat down with Andrew Ross Sorkin at the New York Times DealBook Conference in New York. She said the company, which has 3,000 employees and a valuation near $6 billion based on a major investment by private equity firm TPG in 2017, will be profitable “within a fiscal year.” She noted that it booked a profit years before incurring massive expenses related to taking over and rebranding the A+E-owned H2 cable network.
As to what she called “the Shane factor,” Dubuc said the bearded onetime face of the brand is “not so much” involved in the day to day anymore, as was agreed. “I’m in charge,” she affirmed.
Smith transformed Vice from a punk magazine started in Montreal in 1994 into a global company with TV network, a digital outlet, a film-production company and programs on HBO and investments from major media companies. But after the New York Times detailed mistreatment of women at the company, Smith acknowledged that he had failed to create a safe and inclusive workplace for everyone.
As to how much Smith still meant to the brand, Dubuc gamely let the audience of a couple hundred media and finance types into her process of evaluating that question.
“Was Shane Vice or had Vice become bigger than Shane? The conclusion and the analysis was, Vice is bigger than Shane,” she said.”A lot of the audience doesn’t know what Shane looks like or who Shane is. He appears occasionally in the weekly show, or in the trade press or the media that we see in this room. This is pretty insular, when you think of how big we are and who’s consuming us, it’s not this room. They’re consuming content about student loans, about weed, about politics, gender identity, global warming. Not about Shane. I think that every generation is going to have topics that are going to matter most to them and how we make sure that we are making that field their own will be the most important thing to them.”