Vice Media's New Co-CEOs Vow to Stay the Course

The two aim to shepherd the company—and its brand equity—through its sale

The new chief executive officers of Vice Media, Bruce Dixon and Hozefa Lokhandwala, laid out their commercial strategy for the embattled company in an interview Tuesday, offering a vision largely identical to the one shared by their predecessor, Nancy Dubuc.

The co-CEOs, who assumed the shared role in February three days after Dubuc resigned, stressed their focus on concepts like business fundamentals, efficiencies and operational focus, dispelling any notion that their appointment will mark a shift in strategy from the publisher.

Instead, in their commitment to the course charted by their predecessor, the two have sought to project a sense of stability on a company whose valuation has dropped steeply from its 2017 peak of $5.7 billion.

“Our role is to set the direction for the company, align the organization to that direction and then drive toward that,” Dixon said. “Vice is a household name, and we have to leverage off the back of that.”

The promotions of Dixon and Lokhandwala come at a defining moment for the 29-year-old media company, which has courted potential buyers aggressively over the past six months as it contends with financial struggles. 

The beleaguered business has attracted acquisition offers from a number of potential suitors, including the Greek broadcasting company Antenna and, in recent days, a roughly $400 million bid from Black media collective Group Black

While the CEOs declined to offer details on the ongoing sales process, a variety of factors suggest that their chief responsibility is to shepherd the company through an acquisition—not fix its ailing business, said Andrew Becks, chief operating officer of media agency 301 Digital.

The duo share extensive backgrounds in finance and banking, and their swift, internal appointment comes after working alongside Dubuc since 2018. Along with their unchanged commercial strategy, these factors prime Dixon and Lokhandwala to focus on the urgent matter of the sale at hand.

“When you put a finance and a strategy person in charge of a company looking for an exit, you invite a certain interpretation,” Becks said. “The main concern remains the essence of the brand. For Vice, that brand equity is their main offering.”

For advertisers, the core appeal of Vice Media remains its distinct brand and premium studio offerings, according to Becks. To that end, the company released a new brand campaign on Wednesday, along with an updated DEI report, seeking to further underscore its brand identity.

While the particulars of a future acquisition remain critical, safeguarding that brand equity through this moment must be their primary concern.

Tight economics leave little room for change

Rumors have swirled for years that Vice Media was for sale, but pressing financial circumstances have accelerated the conversations.

Last year, the company generated roughly $600 million in revenue amid a turbulent advertising economy, according to The Wall Street Journal, roughly $100 million short of its intended goal.

It has reportedly fallen behind on payments to vendors including Ranker and AIR.TV, to whom it owes $900,000 and $400,000, respectively. All told, Vice Media owes millions in unpaid invoices, a matter that remains a high priority for the company, Dixon said.

The company has faced revenue shortfalls before, as it has consistently failed to turn a profit. But the advertising downturn of the last year, combined with changes in monetary policy that make debt more expensive, have led investors to seek their returns.

As a result, Vice Media has mulled a variety of options to generate cash, including selling off its lucrative studio business. The company, which laid off 2% of its editorial staff in November, did not rule out the possibility of additional cuts.

The abrupt resignation of Dubuc complicated the situation, raising questions as to how Dixon and Lokhandwala would run the company and where their priorities would lie.

The decision to offer no new solutions for the business, while prudent, also reflects the lack of other options at their disposal, said Ameet Shah, the partner of global vice president of publisher operations and tech strategy at Prohaska Consulting.

“How much can they really change given the position they are in?” Shah said. “At this point, you are looking for quick, easy fixes with big impact.”