RIPP TO TIME: Time Inc. will have a new leader at the helm when it finally splits from parent company Time Warner sometime later this year. Jeff Bewkes, Time Warner chairman and chief executive officer, on Monday named Joseph A. Ripp, 62, to be the publishing division’s new ceo starting in September. Ripp was most recently the ceo of OneSource Information Services, a financial data company, but he is an old hand at Time who first joined the company in 1985 and saw it go through many permutations over the years.
In a statement Bewkes underlined Ripp’s experience at Time Inc. — in 1993, Ripp was named to his highest-ranking title, senior vice president, chief financial officer and treasurer — and his financial chops.
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“We have great confidence that Joe will maximize Time Inc.’s iconic brands, scale and industry-leading position to create value for its stockholders,” Bewkes said.
Ripp’s appointment was a surprise only in the sense that for weeks media reports pointed to another candidate for the job, Michael Klingensmith, a former Time Inc. executive who is the ceo of the Star Tribune Media company, owner of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. In a statement Klingensmith said his work at Tribune was not finished.
“I was honored to be considered for Time Inc. It’s a great company that I much admire, and I had a wonderful career there,” he said.
Ripp first joined Time Inc. as an assistant comptroller and quietly rose through the ranks to later hold senior-level positions in several of Time Warner’s divisions, including, in 2002, vice chairman of America Online.
He will be the fourth ceo of Time Inc. since Ann S. Moore stepped down in 2010, following the short-lived tenures of Jack Griffin, an interim management committee that led the company for 10 months after the Griffin flame-out, and Laura Lang, who lasted on the job for nearly two years, though she’s been a lame duck since March, when Time Warner confirmed its plans for a spin-off. She said at the time she would leave when her successor was named.
Ripp is taking on Time Inc. after a tumultuous first half of the year. In January, Time Inc. laid off 500 employees nationwide, and in March, Time Warner said it would follow in the footsteps of News Corp. in separating its publishing assets, which have struggled in light of industry-wide declines in print advertising and circulation, from its more lucrative entertainment division. The decision was prompted by the collapse of talks with Des Moines, Iowa-based Meredith Corp. to create a joint company composed of women’s interest titles from both companies, like InStyle, from Time, and Better Homes and Gardens from Meredith.
Time Inc.’s revenues in the first quarter declined $36 million, or 5 percent, to $737 million.
More recently, several high-profile executives defected, like former chief revenue officer Paul Caine and Connie Anne Phillips, the former publisher of InStyle, who led the already-flush title to four consecutive years of advertising growth.
First on Ripp’s agenda will be shepherding Time through the public offering that will come to pass by the end of 2013. It’s unclear if the new Time Inc. will be debt-free, like the new News Corp., which started trading with $2.6 billion in cash.
Ripp told the Financial Times he will have enough resources to invest in the new company. He was unavailable for further interviews.
Once the spin-off goes through, Time is expected to take up again the possible sale of some of its magazine properties, though when and who’d be interested is subject to debate. Ripp told FT he would not be selling any assets “right now.”
Analysts have said since the talks with Meredith collapsed that the Iowa publisher should not be ruled out as an interested buyer of at least some of Time’s titles. Of the 95 titles in Time’s portfolio, media observers say in particular the lifestyle division, which includes service titles like Cooking Light, Health, Southern Living and the lucrative shelter magazine Real Simple, would fit nicely within Meredith’s heartland-facing portfolio, which includes Ladies’ Home Journal.
Edward Atorino, a media analyst covering Meredith at the Benchmark Company, said Meredith would be interested in buying certain properties from Time, “especially the smaller magazines.” But he added it’s too early to speculate on those conversations or Time’s plans post-spin-off.
“The fact you’ve got a new guy there immediately puts everything on hold. I’ve never seen a new ceo come in and sell the company,” he said.
On Monday, Time Warner also promoted to chief financial and administrative officer Howard Averill, the executive vice president and cfo of Time Inc. who was part of its short-lived interim management committee in 2011.