Shane Smith Returns to Vice as Editor-in-Chief, Sets New Podcast With Bill Maher

Smith confirms what TheWrap reported in March, which is that he was involved in Vice programming and pitching ideas

Shane Smith
attends the 2015 Creative Arts Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 12, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.

Shane Smith, who co-founded Vice in 1994 and stepped down as CEO in 2018 as the site began to flounder, is back — a development TheWrap reported in March was underway.

The hard-charging media mogul who is widely criticized for running the digital era media property into the ground, told The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday that he was back as editor-in-chief, saying: “It’s your baby that you built, that you birthed.”

In March TheWrap exclusively reported that Smith was trying to raise money to buy Vice back from owner Fortress Investment Group, which helped Vice Media out of bankruptcy in 2023 for $350 million. TheWrap reported at the time that he was back at Vice, pitching a show and advising leadership, according to a source close to the company.

“Shane Smith has been telling anyone who will listen for the last 18 months that he is buying Vice Media back,” a former colleague told TheWrap at the time and that Smith wanted to buy back half of the company for $50 million.

Now that Smith has publicly returned, he said he will focus on long-form documentaries and will be hosting a series of shows, including “Vice News: The Truth?”: The video podcast will be, according to the Journal, free of political bias. Bill Maher will be a recurring guest and the show will be on his podcast network as well as on Vice TV.

The financially-strapped Vice gave up covering daily news earlier this year, laying off several hundred staffers.

In 2016, Disney, one of Vice’s investors, contemplated buying the company for $3.5 billion. Disney walked away and Smith vowed to build the company to a $50 billion valuation.

While Smith admitted to having made some mistakes, he laid most of the blame for Vice’s failure on Facebook, Amazon and Google for taking advertising revenue that used to go to news sites. “They killed independent publishing,” he told WSJ.

“Did we go too fast and get addicted to the money? Probably,” he said of mistakes made in Vice’s past.

Vice grew with the founders’ ambitions to become a global media company valued at $5.7 billion at its height, doing the kind of bold, high-stakes journalism about issues that felt dangerous and new — from melting glaciers in the Arctic to North Korea’s dictatorship, to being on the ground with ISIS fighters, to immigration and racism. It made for a rock ‘n’ roll reputation, plus awards including a Pulitzer, four Peabodys and multiple Emmys.

In 2017, Smith approved a $450 million from buyout firm TPG, although other Board members has their reservations about the deal.

Smith also acknowledged that he did not create a “safe and inclusive workplace.”

“Obviously you can go back and say, I would have been a lot more ‘HR-lens’ in my workplace,” he said, adding he doesn’t want to look back: “Happiness is the future.”

The company recently sold “Hollywood Ending” to Amazon MGM Studios: The doc is about about Zach Horwitz, an actor who was sentenced in 2022 to 20 years in jail for running a $650 million Ponzi scheme.

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