LIPMAN STRIKES BACK: Before many Portfolio staffers were even at their desks Tuesday morning, deputy editor Jim Impoco had already left the building, having been dismissed by editor in chief Joanne Lipman. He left without clearing out his desk.
A spokeswoman said only that Impoco had departed the magazine, though multiple sources confirmed the New York Observer’s report on its Web site Tuesday afternoon that he had been fired. Impoco was an early Portfolio hire, having been recruited from the Sunday business section of The New York Times. Before that, he was assistant managing editor at Fortune. And sources said he’s already put out feelers to those old stomping grounds.
The relationship between Impoco and his boss had been deteriorating for months. Staffers recalled tension at meetings, where Impoco would openly question Lipman’s editorial judgment. Impoco championed a piece by Kurt Eichenwald about terrorism, and when Lipman opted to kill it, sources said a heated discussion ensued. (Another, different story by Eichenwald will be in the second issue).
Sources also said Impoco had been reprimanded by the business manager for his expense account, which included multiple meals with his wife, a publishing executive — among them, Valentine’s Day dinner at Nobu for several hundred dollars — as well as his dry cleaning and the Internet bill at his Hamptons home. Impoco declined comment on his departure.
Apart from staffers from Lipman’s old home of The Wall Street Journal, Impoco recruited many of the marquee names, splitting loyalties on staff. Sniped someone in Impoco’s camp: “One person knows how to put out a magazine, another doesn’t.” Another of his fans described the firing as the “Night of the Long Words,” theorizing the editor in chief was aiming to clear out staffers who use them “because they make her uncomfortable.”
Impoco himself referred to Lipman on more than one occasion as “Newspaper Girl.”
On May 10, shortly after the Condé Nast-wide policy of summer Fridays was reiterated, Lipman had her managing editor, Blaise Zerega, inform the staff in an e-mail that Portfolio would not participate. Needless to say, the announcement did not make her popular, and Impoco was one of several editors who complained. By June 5, the decision was reversed in another e-mail that cited the staff’s “huge momentum.”
When the launch issue was met with mixed reviews, speculation began swirling about Lipman’s future and Impoco’s name was floated as a successor. (Some who heard the rumors suspected Impoco himself had helped them along.)
Though Lipman may have her detractors at 4 Times Square and elsewhere, she still has many fans at Condé Nast headquarters including, sources insist, chairman S.I. Newhouse Jr. Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour is said to be friendly with her, even stopping by Lipman’s office once.
And, regardless of any staff infighting, what really matters, of course, is the product. As one media observer put it: “If the magazine is hot and good, [other Condé Nasters] will welcome her.”
The next issue, which appears Monday, is said to once again eschew a portrait in favor of a faceless industrial shot. One source said the cover story was about Cerberus Capital, which recently bought Chrysler. — Irin Carmon and Stephanie D. Smith