“It’s the silliest rumor I ever heard. There’s no truth to it.” That was Condé Nast Publications chairman S.I. Newhouse Jr.’s response when faxed the lengthy item on Gawker.com Tuesday speculating that Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour might be on her way out. The Web site reported that Condé Nast insiders took note of Newhouse’s allegedly early departure for his December vacation to Europe to make a pit stop in Paris. Gawker said insiders believed the trip was to negotiate a deal to bring French Vogue editor in chief Carine Roitfeld to the States to replace Wintour.

Roitfeld is one of many editors rumored as possible successors to Wintour, along with Russian Vogue editor Aliona Doletskaya. However, Roitfeld, reached by phone late Tuesday night, also denied the rumor, noting she was in London overseeing a fashion shoot with Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott for an upcoming issue. “I’m very happy at Vogue France,” she said. (Vogue and WWD are both owned by Condé Nast.)

This story first appeared in the December 3, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The editor added she planned to travel to Paris today to attend Chanel’s showing of luxury pre-fall ready-to-wear.

The Gawker speculation follows a New York Post Page Six item published on Nov. 18 that reported Wintour was mulling retirement and “has been putting out feelers to intimate friends recommending a possible replacement to S.I. Newhouse.” A Vogue spokesman responded to the Post at the time, “This is completely unfounded.”

All the speculation comes at a time when the Vogue franchise Wintour oversees has suffered some setbacks this year, including the reduction of Men’s Vogue from 10 issues to two in 2009 and the suspension of Vogue Living. Meanwhile, circulation for the flagship has been on the wane lately, as it has been for most magazines. Through June, Vogue’s total paid and verified circulation fell 6 percent to 1.2 million; newsstand sales have fallen to 385,500, a 15 percent decline compared with the first six months of 2007. Vogue’s newsstand strength has weakened just as many of its competitors, but its latest numbers are a 12 percent drop from the 432,000 copies for the first half of 2006.

Regardless, the denials by Newhouse and Roitfeld should lay the rumors to rest. Now the remaining question is: Who’s spreading them?

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