CHURCHWARD DEPARTS: Vogue’s longtime design director Charles Churchward is leaving the magazine after 13 years. He resigned from his post on Monday, but will stay on through July to help close the title’s famously large September fashion issue. After that, Churchward will continue to work with Vogue for projects including books and special issues. “There are many projects that I’ve been wanting to do that I can’t put aside the time for when I’m going to an office every single day,” said Churchward. Such projects include a biography of photographer Herb Ritts, for which he’s currently conducting interviews.
“I personally am so grateful to Charlie for everything he’s done. He’s been a great colleague and an asset to all of us,” Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour told WWD.
Churchward has been with Condé Nast for nearly 30 years and was a protégé of former editorial director Alexander Liberman. He first joined the company as senior designer of Mademoiselle in 1975, but left two years later to join The New York Times Magazine. Churchward returned in 1982 to become the art director of House & Garden and, later, became the executive design director of Vanity Fair. In 1994, he moved over to Vogue. At the time, Churchward replaced Raul Martinez, who later started his own design firm, A/R Media, with partner Alex Gonzalez.
In addition to overseeing all of Vogue’s visuals, including fashion, Churchward helped spin off Teen Vogue and is still listed as a design consultant on the magazine’s masthead. He also worked on Vogue’s coffee-table book, “Vogue Living: Houses, Gardens, People.”
“[Churchward] very much comes from that school of design and thinking and appreciation of great photography and journalism,” Wintour said. “He understood the importance of journalism, the importance of paparazzi, the importance of bringing in new photographers, but still have our anchor of photographers like Steven Klein or Irving Penn or Mario Testino. He understood that Vogue had to remain, particularly in such a crowded market, above the fray, and remain, as Alex used to say, ‘mass with class,’ friendly and accessible, but chic and elegant. He was always able to translate both sides of the coin.”
A search for Churchward’s successor is under way, but Wintour said she has not yet come up with a list of potential replacements. As to whether or not Churchward’s departure means visual changes or a redesign at Vogue, Wintour insisted otherwise. “We’re not interested in a major overhaul or redesign,” she said.
— Stephanie D. Smith
TWO ARE BETTER THAN ONE: After months of persistent rumors — and denials — the departure of Susan Lyne as chief executive of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. after four years in the job came as little surprise to media observers. But her replacements did. President of media Wenda Harris Millard had long been seen as a potential successor; it was the elevation of president of merchandising Robin Marino to co-ceo with Millard that was unexpected. Lyne’s contract expired in December and, according to a company spokeswoman, was automatically renewed for one year.
Millard joined the company last July from Yahoo, where she’d been chief sales officer, and Marino was president and chief operating officer of Kate Spade until joining MSLO in 2005. The co-ceo arrangement is unusual, and it is expected to increase the authority of board chairman Charles Koppelman. “I really expected Wenda to become the ceo,” said David Kastenbaum, director of equity research at Morgan Joseph. “It’s a sign that they feel that Robin’s really important to the company, and Wenda doesn’t have the experience yet to run the merchandising business.”
The company showed Marino just how important she was to them on May 6, when Securities and Exchange Commission filings show Lyne and the board’s compensation committee granted her a spot bonus of $150,000, “with the proviso that you be required to repay the company $75,000 of that amount if you are no longer employed by the company in 12 months.” Marino was the only executive cited in the filing as having received such a bonus in the first quarter and, well before she was named co-ceo, the bonus had fueled speculation that Marino had threatened to quit. The company spokeswoman didn’t respond to a request for comment on the bonus.
Lyne, who was ousted as president of ABC Entertainment in 2004 only to see shows she’d developed thrive, leaves behind several initiatives that are meant to shore up lost revenue from K-Mart’s diminishing royalty payments, including the purchase of Emeril Lagasse’s media and merchandising business, a new Macy’s collection, and a partnership with 1-800 Flowers. It is too early to tell whether the ventures will be successful, but in the meantime, MSLO’s stock price has fallen precipitously during Lyne’s tenure, though she also returned the company to profitability in that time. The shares closed Wednesday down 6 percent at $7.50.
In January, after a New York Post report on her possible exit, Lyne wrote an e-mail to employees that was circulated by her communications team to reporters, assuring her commitment to the company. Observers saw a careful choice of words: Lyne said she would stay on at the company, but didn’t say she’d be ceo. An MSLO spokeswoman said Lyne would stay on in an advisory role for 30 days.
Despite some internal dissatisfaction with the incremental and under-the-radar layoffs in recent months and the closing of Blueprint magazine in December, Lyne was well-liked by her employees, who saw her as a graceful force in a difficult position that required mediating strong personalities. “She was always incredibly nice to the right people,” said one person who worked with her. “I think what she hated about her job was being nice to the wrong people.”
Lyne was a planned speaker at an American Society of Magazine Editors conference for junior editors Monday, and the executive director of ASME said she was still expected to appear.
As for Millard and Marino, both are widely seen as tough operators, and the rare power-sharing arrangement has many curious. “I want to obviously see how they get along,” said Kastenbaum, adding, “Obviously they’re going to be fighting over resources.”
— Irin Carmon
GOOGLE’S GOALS: It’s one thing for the world’s leading search engine to find new — and better — ways to make money, but Google Inc. chairman and chief executive officer Eric Schmidt told The New Yorker’s Ken Auletta on Wednesday that the Silicon Valley giant has a somewhat grander goal: “to change the world.”
“The goal of this company is not to monetize everything,” Schmidt said. “The goal of the company is to change the world. Monetization is a means to pay for it.”
Schmidt touched on a range of issues during the inaugural West Coast event of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications conversation series, cosponsored by The New Yorker and Condé Nast Publications (owner of WWD).
Auletta asked Schmidt about search engine user privacy in light of Google’s purchase of DoubleClick and the recent launch of Google Health, which allows users to connect to their personal service providers and organize health records online. “There’s a natural limit on what we do and it has to do with user perception,” Schmidt said. “In other words, if we were to do something wrong, one of you or all of you wouldn’t go back to Google and ultimately you’d use a competitor.”
On whether Google is responsible for the decline of traditional media, such as The New York Times, Schmidt was quick to note that the Times is a big Google advertiser, traffic on Google typically drives users directly back to a publisher’s Web site, and publishers can opt out of being part of the site’s search index.
Regarding speculation about a Google partnership or merger with Yahoo, Schmidt said, “First of all, we haven’t announced a deal with Yahoo. If we did partner with Yahoo, we would make sure there weren’t any antitrust concerns.” Later, in response to another question, he said, “I don’t know if Microsoft and Yahoo will eventually merge. We are trying to focus internally and not on our competitors.”
A member of the audience at the St. Regis San Francisco asked the ceo “What is your idea of creating a better world through Google?”
Schmidt responded: “A lot of the world’s problems surround a lack of organization. We’re empowering individuals to use technology to find out things. You’re going to get better governance and better business when you have transparency….The world is better when people know what you are doing.”
— Nerissa Pacio