LOTS OF QUESTIONS, STILL NO ANSWERS: Top Condé Nast editors who were looking for a clear answer on what exactly Anna Wintour’s expanded job entails did not get it Friday morning after their first audience with the new supreme pontiff.
The anxious editors filed into the fourth floor auditorium at 4 Times Square for a routine state-of-the-kingdom meeting that had been scheduled far in advance of the announcement Tuesday of Wintour’s new title. These meetings are typically a rehash of the publishers’ annual retreat in Florida — executives toss a few key figures and factoids, chief executive officer Charles H. Townsend rallies the troops and everyone leaves early for the weekend.
This story first appeared in the March 18, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
But this gathering was the first since the Wintour news and editors expected some clues about the perimeters of her new, exalted purview.
Wintour, as is her wont, did not comply. Her brief remarks, which followed Townsend’s, were boilerplate. She told editors she’d help them with their jobs, even if they had not particularly raised their hands for the assist. Of course, Townsend had made it clear earlier in the week that the editors still reported to him, not to Wintour.
“It was strangely undramatic given the magnitude of the appointment,” said an attendee.
Then chief operating officer John Bellando gave a financial overview of the company; Monica Ray, executive vice president, consumer marketing, talked up advances on the digital and tablet front, and Glamour editor in chief Cindi Leive moderated a panel with Townsend and president Bob Sauerberg. After Allure’s editor in chief Linda Wells and Golf Digest’s Jerry Tarde asked questions unrelated to Wintour, it was time to wrap up. Editors left the conclave no better informed than they were days earlier.
“Maybe she plays a huge role. Maybe she’s a figurehead. Who knows? She’s a good person to have in our corner,” an attendee said. “How it plays out is what we’re all curious about.”
For now, the role has no clear definition. But few believe Wintour would have taken a job with no teeth, and the expectation is that eventually she will want to exercise her influence over the brands in the company she sees as struggling, if not the newsier titles.
“She’ll do what she always does, which is what she wants to do,” said another insider.