Eighteen years ago, Kent Weed co-founded A. Smith & Co. with the production company’s namesake, Arthur Smith. A lot has happened since. A. Smith & Co. has produced a score of successful reality programs, including “American Ninja Warrior” for NBC and “Hell’s Kitchen” for Fox, as well as the upcoming “Titan Games” with Dwayne Johnson for NBC.
But in recent years, Weed’s life outside the company has been busier. He has two young children, became coach of his son’s baseball team, and joined the board of trustees for Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s environmental activism organization Waterkeeper Alliance.
“This business takes it toll,” Weed told Variety. “It takes a lot of hours. Running a company is 10 times more than just doing a show. I wasn’t able to do all of this and run the company at the same time.”
More than a year ago, Weed expressed to Smith a desire to shift away from running the day-to-day operations of A. Smith & Co. to focus on balancing his producing and creative work with his family obligations and activism. After a lengthy series of discussions with Smith, Weed has now stepped down from his post as president of the company the two executives founded. He will continue to serve as executive producer, however, on “American Ninja Warrior.”
“Arthur and I were friends before we became partners and we’re always going to be friends,” Weed said. “We’ve had a fabulous run for the last 18 years. We built the company at a great time. We’ve been very successful and very fortunate.”
For Smith, paving the path for Weed to step down meant building a structure that would allow the company to maintain the momentum it has built in the unscripted space, but also finding a way for his longtime business partner to continue as the guiding hand on the company’s crown jewel, “American Ninja Warrior.”
“It’s a company that we built together, so there’s a lot of passion that he has for the company,” Smith said. “And ‘Ninja’ has been a big part of his life.” In addition to exec producer on “American Ninja Warrior,” Weed will continue to be involved in the franchise’s spinoffs, including “American Ninja Warrior: Ninja vs. Ninja” on USA Network and “American Ninja Warrior Jr.” on Universal Kids, and exec produce “Hell’s Kitchen.”
“He’ll still be a very important part of our company,” Smith said. “We have so much fun collaborating together. That’s how this partnership started.”
Smith said the transition will be eased by the infrastructure-building that the company has undergone in recent years. FremantleMedia veteran Toby Gorman joined in 2016 as entertainment president. That same year, Smith & Co. launched a documentary division headed by company COO Frank Sinton, who also serves as president of A. Smith & Co. Dox.
Weed will continue to partner with A. Smith & Co., but will also now have the opportunity to work on outside projects. A veteran director, he told Variety that he looks forward to pursuing new opportunities behind the camera as well.
But he also remains committed to “American Ninja Warrior,” which he credited with inspiring a generation of fans toward healthier, more active lifestyles.
“It does a lot of good,” he said. “It’s not just a TV show for me. I really believe it’s making a difference in people’s lives.”