December 3, 2023

Brighton Journal

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Anthony Padilla and Ian Hickox acquire Smoosh from Rhett & Link – Variety

Anthony Padilla and Ian Hickox acquire Smoosh from Rhett & Link – Variety

Anthony Padilla is back at Smosh — he and Smosh co-founder Ian Hecox have teamed up to buy back the YouTube comedy brand they launched 18 years ago.

The duo came together as on-screen comedians and off-screen business partners to acquire a majority ownership interest in Smosh from Mythical Entertainment, YouTube talk show stars Rhett & Link’s production company. Padilla and Hickox haven’t appeared together in videos or in public since Padilla left Smosh in 2017 — citing a loss of creative inspiration — and branched out on his own. Hecox remained with Smosh and shepherded the business through the collapse of then parent company Defy Media and Smosh’s subsequent acquisition in 2019 and revitalization under Rhett & Link’s Mythical.

“At the time Anthony left Smosh, our friendship wasn’t really good,” Hickox said. A year ago, the two reconnected and “we really hit it off,” he said. Hickox added, “It’s kind of weird how all of this was put into place. Our friendship has to end so we can get back together.”

Addressing the rift in their relationship, Padilla said that “their communication style was kind of stuck at the age of 17… When we reconnected, we both had a lot of growth.”

On a whim, one day, Hickox turned to Padilla and said, “What if we bought Smosh?”

They were excited to get back together — and now they’re back to writing, directing, and starring in comedy sketches on Smosh’s flagship channel. Their first collaboration in over six years will hit Smosh’s main channel on June 30, and they plan to release a new comedy video every two weeks. “I really want to go back to our roots, and part of that is owning the company so we can really take Smosh in any creative direction,” Padilla said.

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The terms of Padilla and Hecox’s purchase of Smosh from Mythical were not disclosed. According to Mythical Entertainment, the company has “realized a significant amount of its original invested capital” in Smosh and will retain a minority stake in the comic outfit. Padilla and Hecox hired a creator capital provider Breeze Finance to finance the acquisition.

The Smosh founders first became friends in sixth grade in suburban Sacramento and began posting videos in 2005 under the Smosh label. “We created Smosh just as a way to make each other laugh,” Hickox said. “It turned into a business, which we never planned to make.” To date, Smosh and its associated channels have amassed more than 75 million followers across the platforms.

Like buddies Smosh, Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal are also childhood best friends (from North Carolina) and are OG YouTubers, having launched their first YouTube channel in 2006.

“The spirit of buying Smosh is kind of mirrored in the spirit of selling Smosh,” said McLaughlin. “None of those opportunities were something we were actively pursuing.” He added, “We always secretly wished they would get back together… We have a soft spot for the internet duo.”

Neil said, “I feel like the four years we had Smosh under our wing, under our roof was a preparation for this… Their fans always wanted to see them back together. But we, as owners of Smosh, wouldn’t push that.”

As minority shareholders, Rhett & Link will continue to work with Smosh in an advisory capacity. “Just seeing them talk to each other….and get excited about working together, we want to continue to be involved,” said McLaughlin. “The fact that their fans would be so excited… I don’t know that would be the case if there weren’t creators on both sides. We see them starting to step up.”

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Hecox said it was a “terrible moment for me” to suggest buying Smosh to Rhett & Link but in the end “they were very receptive” to the idea. The deal that gave Hecox and Padilla a controlling interest in Smosh was “important to show that we really believe in this, we’re all in on it. Not just, like, Anthony coming back for some videos.”

After exiting Smosh, Padilla found success with the YouTube interview series “I Spent a Day With…” produced by his company, Pressalike Productions, which recently won a Webby Award for Best Social Interview Show. Alessandra Catanese, Pressalike’s COO and Executive Producer, is stepping in as CEO of Smosh (while Pressalike will maintain independent operations with its existing team).

With the new ownership structure, Daniel Tibbets, who served as CEO of Smosh, and EVP Joel Rubin are exiting the company. In a statement, Tibbetts said, “The Creative Economy is about individuals with the ability to build a lasting brand in which the creative and business acumen is driven by the creators themselves. I am delighted to see Ian and Anthony regain control of the brand they created 18 years ago.”

Smosh’s core on-screen talent team – Shane Taub, Courtney Miller and Damien Haas – will remain in place. The company will continue to operate out of the 17,000-square-foot Burbank studio space built during Mythical’s ownership.

Padilla and Hecox are rebooting the main Smosh channel with their own sketches, but will keep the same content formats and release cycles for the Smosh Games and Smosh Pit (featuring the challenge and reaction series). The duo will launch subscription-based memberships on the main YouTube channel that will offer exclusive bonus content, live-streamed watch parties, and other perks.

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Mythical Entertainment is represented in the deal by the Raine Group and Greg Axelrud and Kelly Siobhan Laffey of Stubbs Alderton & Markiles; HJTH’s Adam Kahler and Ryan Pastorek; and Matthew Gilbert Aranoff and Meg Palmer of Fulton Management. Padilla and Bresalek were advised by David Sievers and represented by Nixon Peabody’s Michael Lowhead and Ellie Hessler. Hickox was portrayed by Scott Hervey in Weintraub Tobin.

Since Hecox and Padilla are working behind the scenes on the Smosh deal, they’ve kept the news as private as possible. “We shot at [Smosh reunion] He made the secret public with Anthony’s crew a week after Memorial Day,” Hickox said. “It’s been an incredibly tense past couple of months that he’s kept it a secret.”

Watch the video of Padilla and Hecox announcing the purchase of Smosh (featuring a cameo from Ian’s mother):

Pictured above (left to right): Rhett McLaughlin, Link Neal, Ian Hickox, Anthony Padilla