JANN AGAIN, OFF AGAIN: History repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce — and that certainly seems to be the case at Wenner Media these days. Two months after driving off Men’s Journal editor in chief Michael Caruso and Wenner Books head Bob Wallace, owner Jann Wenner is making life unpleasant for one of his top talents: Janice Min, editor in chief of Us Weekly. Sources familiar with the situation say Wenner, who previously allowed Min a high degree of autonomy in running Us, has in the past few months taken to second-guessing her decisions, criticizing her covers, and generally reasserting his authority over her. “He’s completely driving her crazy,” said one Wenner Media insider. “It’s constant.”
“Our fear is one of these days she’s just going to say, ‘I can’t deal with this anymore,'” added an employee.
Quitting, however, would create new problems for Min, who is six months into a two-year contract and pregnant with her second child. The contract contains a non-compete clause that would prevent her from working for other celebrity magazines until July 2007. And, while an editor with Min’s résumé presumably could find work outside the celebrity category easily enough, sources say she is otherwise happy at Us and would prefer to stay — if only Wenner would turn his attention elsewhere.
Why the sudden micromanaging? A company spokeswoman would say only that Wenner “is clearly involved with all the Wenner titles and shares a productive relationship with all their editors.” But insiders see several factors at work. First is Wenner’s lingering irritation over the tough negotiations for Min’s new contract. In fact, say sources, it was just after Min agreed to her new deal, reportedly worth $1.2 million a year, that Wenner turned up the heat on her. Relations worsened over the fall as Us entered a sales slump (which also has affected several of its competitors), and as Caruso, Wallace and longtime general manager Kent Brownridge all made for the exits. (Brownridge retires at the end of December, although he’ll continue to consult for the company.) Finally, there’s Min’s new pregnancy. Although she took a mere eight days of maternity leave for her first baby, and is hiring a second executive editor to ensure a minimum of disruption when she takes off next spring, an insider speculated that Wenner was resentful of any outside demands on Min’s attention.
This story first appeared in the December 23, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The biggest factor, however, appears to be Wenner himself, who has lived out this psychodrama numerous times over the years. Those who’ve worked with him say Wenner can seem just as annoyed when his employees succeed as when they fail, viewing it as a challenge. “He always has to be the smartest person in the room,” said one editor. “There isn’t going to be any ‘most successful employee,'” said another company source. “There’s only Jann Wenner.”
— Jeff Bercovici
ART & COMMERCE: Hedi Slimane‘s taking a step deeper into the art world. The Dior Homme designer has collaborated with the up-and-coming Canadian artist known as Paul P. on his spring-summer campaign for the LVMH-owned fashion house. Known for figurative studies, Paul P. drew boys in Slimane’s Mod-inspired clothes. The results are juxtaposed with photos of models in the same garments. “I wanted this to be a project between the two of us, in addition to a campaign,” explained Slimane in an e-mail. “It just felt like a rare natural connection.” Added Paul P.: “It seems that Hedi and I are attracted to the [same] casual beauty found in nature.” Dior isn’t saying who took the campaign’s pictures, but sources said Slimane snapped the shutter. That hardly would be a surprise. Slimane has spent more time behind the lens lately, publishing a series of photography books, including one recently devoted to British bad-boy rocker (and Kate Moss ex) Pete Doherty. In January, he is scheduled to have his first solo art show at Almine Rech gallery, in Paris.
— Robert Murphy