Vice Approaches a Milestone

Posted November 5, 2018 5:49 p.m. EST

NEW YORK — Nancy Dubuc, the newly installed chief executive of Vice Media, announced last week that the company would be profitable by “the next fiscal year” — an important milestone for a business that was most recently valued at $5.7 billion.

“It actually was profitable a couple years ago, and then with all the expansion and investment, we made it not profitable,” Dubuc said. “But very, very quickly it’ll be profitable again.”

Cost-cutting will help. But Dubuc characterized coming changes as a way to become more efficient. “When you have expansion everywhere, you’re obviously going to have duplication everywhere, too,” she said.

More crucially, the company will be able to invest its profits in new areas for the business, including its online news operation.

Vice started as a free punk magazine in Montreal in 1994 and has traded on its irreverent, brash tone to become a global media company with about 3,000 employees. Backed by media giants like the Walt Disney Co. and 21st Century Fox, Vice now includes an advertising agency, a TV network, a film-production business and programs on HBO.

Dubuc also has the task of solving the company’s long-standing issues with sexual harassment. In December, a New York Times investigation detailed the mistreatment of women at the company and found four settlements involving allegations of sexual harassment or defamation against Vice employees. Altogether, more than two dozen women said they had experienced or witnessed sexual misconduct at the company.

Shane Smith, a co-founder of Vice who was chief executive at the time, responded to the article by pledging a series of changes, including pay equity and reaching gender parity within the workforce. In a statement at the time, he said, “From the top down, we have failed as a company to create a safe and inclusive workplace where everyone, especially women, can feel respected and thrive.”

Dubuc said that she took the responsibility of reforming the company’s culture very seriously. She also praised Smith for his response.

“Shane did a powerful thing and that was to take seriously the changes that needed to happen at Vice,” she said, later adding that her being named chief executive was an important signal for the company to send.

“I could have a pretty dramatic impact,” she said.

As to how Dubuc works with Smith, who has led Vice for more than two decades and was made executive chairman after she joined the company?

Very simple. “I run the show,” she said.