Anthony Padilla has returned to Smosh — and he and Smosh co-founder Ian Hecox have teamed up to buy back the YouTube comedy brand that they launched 18 years ago.
The duo have reunited as onscreen comedy partners and offscreen business associates to acquire a majority ownership stake in Smosh from Mythical Entertainment, the production company of YouTube talk show stars Rhett & Link. Padilla and Hecox have not appeared together in videos or in public since Padilla — citing his loss of creative inspiration — left Smosh in 2017 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.
“By the time Anthony left Smosh, our friendship was not really that good,” said Hecox. A year ago, the two of them reconnected “and we really hit it off,” he said. Hecox added, “It’s kind of freaky how well this has all fallen into place. Our friendship had to end to be able to come back together.”
Padilla, addressing the rift in their relationship, said that their “communications style was kind of stuck in that age of 17… When we reconnected, we both had done a lot of growing.”
On a whim, one day, Hecox turned to Padilla and said, “What if we bought Smosh?”
They got excited about getting back together — and now they’re returning to writing, directing and starring in comedy sketches on the main Smosh channel. Their first collab in more than 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 return to our roots, and part of that is owning the company so we can really take Smosh in any creative direction,” Padilla said.
Terms of Padilla and Hecox’s buyout of Smosh from Mythical aren’t being disclosed. According to Mythical Entertainment, the company “realized a significant multiple of its original invested capital” in Smosh and it will retain a minority stake in the comedy outfit. Padilla and Hecox tapped creator capital provider Breeze Financial to finance the acquisition.
The Smosh co-founders first became friends in the 6th grade in the suburbs of Sacramento and began posting videos in 2005 under the Smosh label. “We created Smosh as just a way to make each other laugh,” Hecox said. “It turned into a business, which we never planned to have happen.” To date, Smosh and its related channels have amassed more than 75 million followers across platforms.
Like the Smosh guys, Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal are also best childhood friends (hailing from North Carolina) and are OG YouTubers, having launched their first YouTube channel in 2006.
“The spirit of buying Smosh is sort of mirrored in the spirit of selling Smosh,” said McLaughlin. “Neither of these opportunities was something we were actively pursuing.” He added, “We always secretly hoped they would get back together… We have a soft spot for internet duos.”
Neal said, “I feel like the four years we’ve had with Smosh under our wing and, literally, under our roof was preparation of this… Their fans always wanted to see them get back together. But we weren’t, as the owners of Smosh, going to push that.”
As minority shareholders, Rhett & Link will remain involved with Smosh in an advisory capacity. “Just seeing them talk to one another…. and get excited about working together, we want to continue to be involved,” McLaughlin said. “The fact that their fans are going to be so excited… I don’t know that that would be the case if there weren’t creators on both sides of this. We see them starting to level up.”
Hecox said it was “a terrifying moment for me” to propose the Smosh buyout to Rhett & Link but that in the end “they were very receptive” to the idea. The deal giving Hecox and Padilla a controlling interest in Smosh was “important to show that we really believe in this, we’re all in. It’s not just, like, Anthony’s back for a few videos.”
After exiting Smosh, Padilla found success with 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 current team).
With the new ownership structure, Daniel Tibbets, who has served as Smosh’s CEO, and EVP Joel Rubin are exiting the company. In a statement, Tibbets said, “The Creator Economy is about individuals having the power to build a lasting brand in which creative and business acumen are driven from the creators themselves. I am thrilled to see Ian and Anthony take back control of the brand they created 18 years ago.”
Smosh’s core onscreen talent team — Shayne Topp, 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 Smosh’s main channel with their own sketches, but will maintain the same content formats and release cycles for Smosh Games and Smosh Pit (which features challenge and reaction series). The duo will launch subscription-based memberships on the main YouTube channel that will offer exclusive bonus content, livestreamed watch parties and other perks.
Mythical Entertainment was represented in the transaction by the Raine Group, Greg Akselrud and Kelly Siobhan Laffey of Stubbs Alderton & Markiles; Adam Kaller and Ryan Pastorek of HJTH; and Matthew Gilbert-Aranoff and Meg Palmer of Fulton Management. Padilla and Pressalike were advised by David Sievers and represented by Michael Lawhead and Ellie Heisler of Nixon Peabody. Hecox was repped by Scott Hervey at Weintraub Tobin.
As Hecox and Padilla worked behind the scenes on the Smosh deal, they kept the news as private as they could. “We shot the [Smosh reunion] announcement in secret with Anthony’s crew the week after Memorial Day,” Hecox said. “It’s been an incredibly tense past couple of months keeping it secret.”