Charlie Rose recently sat down with Shane Smith, the CEO and co-founder of the media company VICE™ for a terrific 40-minute conversation about the company’s early years with its founding in Montreal, its present moment as one of the world’s most important media companies, and its future in an ever-changing and accelerating landscape of technology, journalism, and good ol’ street culture.
There are several standout moments throughout the conversation, some of which include: Shane Smith‘s infamous takedown of Rupert Murdoch, Smith’s personal relationship with his stoic father, and a fascinating story of what happened when VICE™ orchestrated a visit between the Chicago Bulls (including Dennis Rodman) and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. As Smith explains, when he learned that the Chicago Bulls were revered as gods in North Korea — a nation that also happens to be fiercely anti-American — he knew he found the ultimate VICE™ “hook”. What happened when Rodman and his fellow Bulls alumni arrived in North Korea makes for a story that will blow away even the most knowledgeable expert in North Korean affairs. The encounter will be chronicled in a documentary which will air on the season finale of VICE on HBO in the weeks ahead. In the interview with Rose, Smith’s excitement about the doc is worn on his sleeve: “It’s the best thing we’ve ever done,” he tells Rose.
VICE™ was launched in Montreal with the help of a government grant in 1994 as the magazine Voice of Montreal. In 1996 Smith and his team bought out the original publisher and changed the name of the magazine to VICE. In 2000, partly from the advice of Prince (yes, the musician), VICE™ moved its operations to New York. In 1999, Smith has stated: “I grew up being a socialist and I have problems with it because I grew up in Canada [and] I’ve spent a lot of time in Scandinavia, where I believe countries legislate out creativity. They cut off the tall trees. Everyone’s a C-minus. I came to America from Canada because Canada is stultifyingly boring and incredibly hypocritical. Thanks, Canada.”
VICE™ is now an enormously influential global brand which includes a record label, publishing assets, television and documentary properties, multiple YouTube channels with over 2 million subscribers, and much, much more. The company’s creative director is Spike Jonze, the magazine’s editor-in-chief is Rocco Castoro, and iconic entertainment executive Tom Freston (the father of MTV) is a chef advisor. The company is estimated to be worth more than $1 billion. For more from the world of VICE™ be sure to visit the mothership at VICE.com, check out HBO.VICE.com, and follow Shane Smith on Twitter.