How Suroosh Alvi made millions from his Vice empire

From being an unemployed heroin addict to becoming an Emmy-nominated journalist, Suroosh Alvi’s success story has been nothing short of exemplary. He is widely known as the co-founder of the Vice Media Group, which took the media industry by storm with its unique style of adventurous journalism. We’re taking a look at how Suroosh Alvi amassed an estimated net worth of $450 million through his media empire.

suroosh alvi net worth

As of 2022, Alvi has a consolidated net worth of nearly $450 million, most of which derives from his stake in Vice Media and personal investment in Kolkata Chai.

About the Company

vice logo

Vice Media

  • Location United States of America
  • Type Digital media and broadcasting
  • Founded 1994

Early Life and The Birth of Vice

On March 26, 1969, Alvi was born in Toronto, Canada to Pakistani immigrants and academics Sajida and Sabir Alvi. His mother was a professor of Islamic and Mughal studies at McGill University while his father was a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. Both parents are professors emeriti at their respective universities. Alvi followed his mother’s footsteps and graduated from McGill with a Bachelor of Arts degree with a concentration in philosophy in 1991.

In the early 90s, while recovering from his addiction, Alvi realized the importance of providing an alternative to mainstream magazines. He targeted the Montreal Mirror, a mainstream magazine in the alternative music scene in the state and partnered up with Shane Smith and Gavin McInnes to launch the Voice of Montreal in October 1994. The magazine originally began publishing in Montreal and Quebec with the support of the Canadian government and covered punk rock and its associated drug culture, art, and trends.

In 1996, Alvi and his partners bought out the magazine’s publisher Alix Laurent and renamed the magazine Vice – a synonym for iniquity and hedonism. However, as the magazine grew in its reader base and popularity, the founders found it difficult to keep operating from Canada and in 1999, they relocated Vice’s base to New York City after a $4 million investment from Canadian investor Richard Swalzinski for a 25% stake in the company. In 2001, the company relocated again and moved its headquarters to Williamsburg, Brooklyn. In 2002, Alvi started Vice Music as a record label company which would later go on to sell over 7 million albums worldwide and partner with over 50 artists.

Betting Big on Digital Media

Vice initiated its global expansion campaign by launching its UK division under the leadership of Andrew Creighton and Andy Capper. Later the company would go on to expand into 5 continents. In 2006, the company also started its digital expansion by launching VBS.tv as a joint venture effort with MTV Networks. In 2007, the company launched several new channels as part of its digital expansion campaign. These included:

  • Motherboard: Technology
  • Noisey: Music
  • The Creators Project: An arts and technology channel in partnership with Intel.

It was during Vice’s expansion from magazine to video-based reporting that Alvi published one of the company’s viral segments Gun Markets of Pakistan, which covered the illegal, mass production of small arms in the tribal regions of Pakistan.

The Rise of an Unlikely Media Giant

In 2011, Alvi finalised a partnership between Vice Music and Warner Bros Co and by the end of 2012, the company reported revenues exceeding $175 million. In August 2013, Vice received a $70 million investment from Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox, acquiring a 5% stake in the company. This deal placed the company at a valuation of nearly $1.4 billion.

Following the launch of Vice News and its very positive public response, A&E Networks acquired a minority 10% stake in the company in a deal valued at nearly $250 million. The newly forged partnership with A&E resulted in the launch of Viceland in 2015, a cable show that would air Vice-produced content. Subsequently, Disney made two $200 million investments in November and December of the same year netting them a minority stake of 9% in the company. This deal placed Vice at a valuation of over $4 billion and by the end of the next year, the company reported revenues exceeding $500 million.

In June 2017, private equity firm TPG Capital invested $450 million into the company, valuing the company at nearly $5.7 billion. However, in 2018, Disney wrote down their Vice investment by $157 million and following the Fox-Disney merger, the company had a combined 26% stake in the company by the end of 2019. In May 2019, Vice Media raised $250 million in debt from various investors including George Soros, Fortress Investment Group, 23 Capital and Monroe Capital. In October, the company acquired Refinery29, a multinational, feminist digital publication in a deal valued at $400 million. The company recently held its latest funding round where it secured $135 million in equity financing from existing investors like TCV and Lupa Systems, the Antenna Group, TPG, and Sixth Street in 2021.

However, despite the surge in popularity and viewership, The Vice Media Group has struggled financially since 2018. The company plans to go public via a $3 billion merger with a blank-check firm, 7GC & Co Holdings, in order to end its financial obligations with TPG. This would mean a 35% depreciation considering its previous $5.7 billion valuation in 2017.

For The Love of Reporting

Apart from being the co-founder of Vice, Alvi’s passion for reporting has also been instrumental to the company’s success over the years.

In 2006, when Vice was expanding from media to video-based reporting, his segment on the illegal, mass production of small arms in the tribal regions of Pakistan titled the Gun Markets of Pakistan, became one of the first popular video publications for the company. He has also reported on various conflicts across the world in regions like Congo, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine-Gaza. He has also produced and reported for Vice on HBO and Vice News, both of which have received the Emmy and the Peabody Awards. In 2020, he hosted the Vice Guide to Iran where he interviewed everyday Iranians about their lives during the Persian Gulf Crisis. It gained widespread popularity for its gritty nature and accurate reporting.

He has also directed and produced several films for Vice including Heavy Metal in Baghdad in 2007 which follows a heavy metal band in post-Hussein Iraq. In 2012, he co-produced a feature film on Snoop Dogg’s new album Reincarnated with Andy Cooper. The film was accepted into the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival.

Suroosh Alvi has recently participated in a $1 million pre-seed round for the tea startupKolkata Chai.” Their other investors include Andrew Chau and Bin Chen, Nik Sharma, Kevin Lee, and Zanab Hussain Alvi.

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