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Vice Media Confirms Nancy Dubuc as CEO, Shane Smith Moves to Executive Chairman

Former A+E Networks CEO Nancy Dubuc has been named CEO of Vice Media, the company said Tuesday. Vice Media co-founder Shane Smith will shift to a new role as executive chairman.

The news comes a day after Dubuc announced her exit after nearly 20 years from A+E Networks. The transition comes as Vice has experienced some growing pains and some behind-the-scenes tumult amid allegations of questionable conduct among senior executives at the hard-charging digital content firm.

Variety first reported that Dubuc was in talks to become Vice’s CEO.

“Why Nancy Dubuc? Simply put, because rarely in business do you get to work in a perfect partnership,” Smith said in a statement. “First off, she is better than me at everything. Second, it allows me to move to Executive Chairman, where I can 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, whether 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. We are a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde and we are going to take all your money.”

Dubuc was already a Vice board member and had a relationship with Smith and others through the Viceland cable channel launched in partnership with A+E Networks in early 2016. She moves from cable to the digital-centric Vice at a time of seismic transitions for the traditional pay-TV business. The past few years have been rocky for the core A+E Networks channels: A&E Network, History, and Lifetime. The long-term business forecast for those and other established cable brands is cloudy at best as consumers flock to Netflix and streaming alternatives to traditional pay TV.

“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,” Dubuc said. “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. As the next chapter of media is written by founders such as Shane and [Vice co-founder] Suroosh [Alvi], it’s an honor to join a brand with such tremendous opportunity and I look forward to growing the platform for decades to come.”

Shane Smith has led Vice since the company launched a punk-scene print magazine in Montreal in 1994. Today, the Brooklyn-based company is a global media conglomerate, valued at $5.7 billion and operating in more than 30 countries. Vice’s business encompasses 18 news and lifestyle websites; the Viceland channel; TV shows including HBO’s “Vice News Tonight”; print magazines; a film studio; and a record label.

Dubuc comes on board as Vice’s CEO as it continues an aggressive international expansion strategy and on the heels of 2017 marking its best year to date for revenue generation and digital traffic.

However, Vice missed its revenue target of $805 million last year by more than $100 million, primarily because of revenue shortfall for Viceland, per a Wall Street Journal report. (The privately held company doesn’t disclose financial info.) Last July, Vice laid off about 60 staffers, representing 2% of its total workforce, which the company said was part of shifting staff resources toward video production and international divisions.

Meanwhile, Dubuc also joins Vice in the wake of sex-harassment scandals that have resulted in the firings of several male execs, including chief digital officer Mike Germano. Vice has taken several steps in response to allegations of a toxic workplace culture, including committing to achieving a 50-50 ratio of male and female employees by 2020.

To fuel its growth, Vice has landed a total of $1.4 billion in funding from major media and private-equity backers, including Disney, A+E Networks, 21st Century Fox, TPG, WPP, and Raine Group.

Here is the note Smith sent to Vice staffers:

VICE, As many of you have read, I have been in discussions with my friend, my partner, and board member Nancy Dubuc, to join the VICE family and become my successor as CEO.

While we tried our damnedest to have everything signed, sealed and delivered before sharing it with you and with the rest of the world, we seemingly can’t take a crap in this town without it leaking to the press.

Of course, as the bellwether for the modern media age, we should be no stranger to the rumors and speculation.

Today we put this speculation to rest and turn our focus toward executing our growth plans to maintain our hegemonic place atop the new media landscape which, in turn, will give us the ability to control our own destiny.

As founders, we take pride in the fact that we built an institution with some level of permanence, and while VICE has a strong foundation for the future, we realize that we need help for the next phase of our growth. We need to surround ourselves with the right people so our company, and our thousands of employees globally, can flourish.

In looking for a professional CEO, we are in need of one who can master; the content world, the digital world, the business world, and who is at the same time an operator extraordinaire. These people are obviously few and far between, but I believe we have found the absolute best in class with Nancy.

Nancy and I have spent much time deliberating on the best way for us to partner up in a shared mission of maximizing the great potential this company holds. She believes in VICE, she believes in our mission, and she believes in all of you.

Nancy has clearly proven herself with her stewardship of A&E Networks. As a partner, she’s helped grow VICELAND internationally and into the second fastest growing network in all of US cable among our audience.

Since joining our board, Nancy has been a trusted confidante whose every recommendation is driven by making the best programming possible. She has the rare combination of business and content chops, and an unparalleled record in running the daily operations of a sprawling global media company like our own.

A lot of people have been asking me what this means for me personally. Well, I have always said that I am good at two things, 1) creating content and 2) making deals, so that’s what I’m going to do. I will focus my energy on raising the bar for our content, and will serve as Executive Chairman of the Board.

Again, as I always say “I’Union fait la Force” or “together we are stronger.” This marks a new period in VICE’s history that will make us infinitely stronger. Nancy will run the company day to day from New York and we will work lock step with our partners, management, employees and board in making sure that VICE maintains its position as the leader of new media, and delivers on its commitment to 50/50 by 2020 as we work to become the most progressive workplace in the world.

This Friday we will be hosting a town hall in Brooklyn to welcome Nancy and introduce her to all of you. I hope that you will welcome her to the company with the same enthusiasm and open arms that I have.

Love S

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