- Vice filed for bankruptcy, wiping out equity holders who poured in hundreds of millions, including TPG and James Murdoch.
- The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Monday in New York’s Southern District Court.
- The company’s filing listed assets and liabilities in the range of $500 million to $1 billion.
Vice Media, the youth-targeted media brand cofounded by Shane Smith in Montreal nearly 30 years ago, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Monday in the Southern District of New York, listing assets and liabilities in the range of $500 million to $1 billion.
The bankruptcy marks yet another new phase for a company that has been beset by poor management and warring owners, allegations of sexual harassment, layers of debt, ambitious but scuttled plans to go public, and more than a year of searching for a new owner. While Vice’s content was often impactful and critically acclaimed, with the company sharing in a Pulitzer Prize for audio journalism in 2020, it struggled to achieve profitability as it pursued rapid growth under its gonzo chief, Smith.
The Brooklyn-based global media company has been doing small layoffs for months and in April let go of around 100 staff — out of about 1,500, the Wall Street Journal reported — as it shut down production of “Vice News Tonight,” its flagship news show on cable channel Vice TV. CEO Nancy Dubuc, appointed in 2018, departed in February and was succeeded by two executives named co-CEO: Hozefa Lokhandwala and Bruce Dixon.
Vice had run multiple sales processes with a range of different banks but never received an offer palatable to its owners. Its bankruptcy process is expected to last 45 days or less, said one person familiar with the plans.
The bankruptcy filing reveals just how many companies and investors pinned their hopes on Smith’s hype about the potential growth trajectory of the TV and online venture. Among the biggest losers in the bankruptcy is private equity giant TPG which invested $450 million in 2017.
TPG also has stakes in talent agency CAA, Spotify, and media outlet Puck. James Murdoch was also a Vice investor via his company Lupa Systems, first taking a stake in 2019 and later participating in multiple funding rounds including one for $135 million in 2021.
Disney, which poured $400 million into the company in 2015 — and owned additional stakes through A&E, a joint venture between Disney and Hearst, and the Fox assets it acquired in 2019 — previously took two write-downs on its Vice investments, totaling more than $500 million.
One person who appears to have won big during Vice’s first three decades is cofounder Smith, who made $100 million on the business, according to Semafor. His 2022 divorce agreement said he was earning a salary of $1.6 million as the company’s executive chairman; the court filing did not include the worth of his Vice shares since it was unclear how to place a valuation on the company given the size of its debts and ongoing sales processes.
Insider previously reported on numerous vendors who had gone to court to recoup unpaid fees from Vice, including management consultants FTI Consulting and tech vendor Wipro, which said it was owed $10 million.