CONDÉ SHAKE-UP: Condé Nast revealed its new executive structure Wednesday, which media insiders view as the blueprint for the company’s succession plan.
Central to that plan is the reorganization of the executive team, which includes the departures of Tom Wallace, editorial director, and John Bellando, chief financial officer and chief operating officer, as well as the expansion of Bob Sauerberg’s role as president.
This story first appeared in the July 24, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The three executives did not return requests seeking comment, but Condé Nast said that Bellando’s decision to leave the company was his own and that he would consult with the company through the end of the year.
A spokesman for the company told WWD that Wallace’s role would not be filled. When asked whether artistic director Anna Wintour will have a larger role as a result, the spokesman said her role “stays the same.”
But Wintour’s role has been somewhat amorphous since her ascension to the position last year. In addition to continuing her responsibilities as editor in chief of Vogue, she has influenced in a hands-on manner the editorial direction of various Condé titles such as Brides, Lucky, Glamour, Condé Nast Traveler and Self.
According to Wednesday’s memo sent to staff, chief executive officer Chuck Townsend said Wintour “will ensure that our content and culture remain at the forefront of our industry.”
An insider likened Wintour’s power to that of former editorial director, the late Alexander Liberman, offering: “When Tom [Wallace] took that position, it was largely administrative. Tom was more of an operator for the editors.”
On the business side, Sauerberg, whom many view as Townsend’s likely successor as ceo, will now take the lead in all revenue generation activities. His areas of responsibility will stretch beyond the management of digital, technology, consumer marketing, business development, corporate administration and Condé Nast Entertainment, and include taking direct responsibility for the Condé Nast Media Group, as well as brand revenue growth.
Chief revenue officer Lou Cona, who reported to Townsend, will now report to Sauerberg.
Also reporting to Sauerberg is new hire David Geithner, who assumes the role of chief financial officer. Geithner, who fell victim to Time Inc.’s reorganization in February, held the role of executive vice president and group president of the style and entertainment group, which oversaw marquee titles People and InStyle. He left after a 21-year run at the company.
This shuffle gives Sauerberg a bigger platform and standing for when Townsend eventually retires. Condé Nast declined to comment on the speculation that Townsend might wait to retire until the company relocates by 2015 to One World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan. A source close to Townsend told WWD that the exec is “not going to retire soon,” while another pointed to his multiyear contract. According to reports, that will be up in 2018, but the 69-year-old exec could opt out before then.
Either way, the ceo’s comments indicated that Sauerberg, 53, is the heir apparent thus far.
“As many of you know, Bob and I have worked side by side as ceo and president to ensure we prepare the company to reach new heights,” he said, indicating that Sauerberg would make more announcements in the near future. “Today’s announcement begins this seamless transition and gives me more confidence than ever that our best years are yet to come.”
But one insider cautioned against reaching any sweeping conclusions into the memo.
“You’ve got a company that intentionally keeps it vague,” the insider said.