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It was sunny in Williamsburg on the last Wednesday in May, which also happened to be the second day of a new era at Vice Media. Visitors were still required to sign in on a tablet that featured an image of a woman’s red lips opened wide to reveal a tab of acid, but the TV screens in the lobby promoted a forthcoming seminar on “How to Be an Ally.” On the company’s sprawling roof-deck overlooking the East River, Nancy Dubuc, the former head of A&E who had started as Vice’s CEO the day before, sat in a lounge chair with Dominique Delport, a French advertising executive recently hired as the company’s chief revenue officer. They were chatting amiably about whatever it is two people brought in to change a troubled company’s fortunes talk about.
Scene - Shane - Smith - Vice - Co-founder
Missing from the scene was Shane Smith, Vice’s co-founder, who shocked his employees and the media world in March by announcing that he was stepping aside as the company’s longtime CEO. Smith’s beard and Canadian drawl had become an avatar of the company, both on-camera, in Vice documentaries about drug gangs and warlords, and in front of corporate audiences, where he persistently declared the inevitability of his company’s global domination and landed deals with an aggressive sales pitch: Pay Vice to join its youth revolution or get left behind.
The pitch had worked to the point that Vice had grown from a free magazine to a company with 3,000 employees spread across a cable network, more than a dozen websites, two shows on HBO, an ad agency, a film studio, a record label, and a bar in London. Vice had become the tenth-highest-valued private company in America, according to CB Insights, at a valuation of $5.7 billion, and as recently as 2016, Smith had...
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