PRESSURING THE BOARD: As shareholders prepare to gather for Time Warner Inc.’s annual meeting on May 16, 12 stockholding organizations have a proposal up for a vote that the post of chairman and chief executive officer be split. The proposal states that it is often in shareholders’ best interests to separate the positions, as conflicts of interest arise when one person holds both posts.
So what’s the big deal? Well, it clearly matters a lot to Jeff Bewkes — terms of his employment contract stipulate that he can resign as ceo if he isn’t also elected chairman by Jan. 1. The current chairman is former ceo Richard Parsons.
This story first appeared in the March 25, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
To provide an example to stockholders, the proposal alleges that a fully functioning independent chair could have led the Time Warner board to have better oversight when the firm’s five highest-paid executives received $58 million in compensation in 2006 while the value of most employees’ stock options was decreasing and layoffs of nearly 5,000 workers occurred at its AOL division.
The Time Warner board advises shareholders to vote against the proposal, noting that effective corporate governance doesn’t require the chairman be an independent director or that the offices of the chairman and ceo be separated. A spokesman said that, if the proposal gets a majority affirmative vote, it will go to the board for consideration. — Amy Wicks
24-HOUR PARTY PEOPLE: Editor in chief Dan Peres flew into Los Angeles for 24 hours last week to host the third annual Details Mavericks party in Beverly Hills. “I love doing this event, but right now I would much rather be at home with my wife and newborn son. I’m doing very short trips these days,” he said. And how: Peres even cuts transatlantic trips short, this week jetting in and out of Milan in 24 hours for a dinner with Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana. On his latest cover subject, Ryan Seacrest, Peres was quick to peg him as “a successful, shrewd businessman who remains in the public eye in the most positive sense.” Peres, along with co-hosts and Mavericks Ben Silverman, Charlie Walk and Seacrest (all clad in Versace), mingled among a crowd that included Eric Mabius, Dylan McDermott, Carson Daly, Don Cheadle, David Spade, Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and the cast of “The Office.” The guys outnumbered the gals, although Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Lindsay Price, Kim Kardashian, January Jones and Jennifer Esposito helped redress the imbalance. — Hellin Kay
THERE SURE ARE A LOT OF AWARDS: The magazines with the most bragging rights in the James Beard Foundation Awards nominations, unveiled Monday, were Saveur, Gourmet, GQ and New York, each with three. (One of Gourmet’s was for its television show, “Diary of a Foodie”). There were few surprises in that regard — two of New York’s nominations, a feature on street food in Manhattan and its Grub Street blog, also are up for National Magazine Awards. GQ food critic Alan Richman is up for his 22nd nomination, and he’s already won 12 over the years.
Nabbing single nominations were Departures, the Atlantic, Food & Wine, Travel + Leisure and Forbes Life, among others. In the book awards, “Welcome to Michael’s: Great Food, Great People, Great Party!” was nominated in the entertaining category — for anyone who wishes to take their social cues from ever-charming New York media executives. — Irin Carmon
REALLY, SINCE WHEN DID TRUTH MATTER?: Pranks are particularly beloved of men’s magazines — perhaps because they secretly want to telegraph that they’re somehow too clever for the whole glossy magazine thing, or because they want to grab elusive male attention with schoolboy humor. These are two possible reasons for a February GQ story about a trend of animal aggression against humans that, after nearly 10,000 words of self-referential tangents and apparently reported interludes, revealed at the end that most of it had been made up. To quote author John Jeremiah Sullivan directly: “Big parts of this piece I made up. I didn’t want to say that, but the editors are making me, because of certain scandals in the past with made-up stories, and because they want to distance themselves from me. Fine.”
At the time, The Washington Post’s magazine columnist, Peter Carlson, called it “a clever parody of environmental scare stories” (though he also singled out its “gaseous prose”), and blogger reaction ranged from perplexed to irritated to, well, credulous. Now comes Sullivan’s response, published in the April issue following letters about the piece (one of which praised it but did not mention whether the letter’s author got the joke, and two of which were less enthused). But the explanation is possibly even more convoluted than the original article, amounting to something of a repudiation of the whole project: “I am totally unable to explain what ‘Violence of the Lambs’ was, or was meant to be. Even so, some of you gave over a chunk of your day to a piece that in the end was something less, or, at any rate, other than it claimed, and you are owed.” Sullivan said the story had passed through several unsuccessful drafts that took it from legitimate feature to satire to a “synthesis of some kind.” He ended with a half-hearted apology: “I am sorry not to have shed more light. I love animals.”
So why give over so much space to a story that, by its own author’s account, was neither truth nor satire? A GQ spokesman said that neither editor in chief Jim Nelson nor Sullivan was available for comment. The spokesman called the piece successful and pointed out that many of the animal aggression incidents did actually take place. According to the magazine, the story has been optioned by the Weinstein Co. — presumably not for a documentary. — I.C.
SAKS GOES LIVE: In an age of YouTube and Facebook, Saks Direct president Denise Incandela can’t emphasize the growing importance of video sufficiently. “We are doing a tremendous amount,” Incandela said. “It’s the biggest change in the Saks Web site over the course of the last year.”
In the fall, saksfifthavenue.com started featuring videos of New York Fashion Week, some in-store events including the Want-It trend promotion and shoe brands Christian Louboutin, Zagliani, Giuseppe Zanotti and Jimmy Choo.
On Monday, Saks raised the bar by launching a “video catalogue” of 17 women’s spring looks, primarily contemporary styles from Sonia by Sonia Rykiel, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Cynthia Steffe and Nicole Miller, among other brands. Each video is about 30 seconds, highlights a dress or a sportswear outfit with accessories and has music, movement to show the fashion front and back and descriptive audio commentary. One video, for example shows a Jay Godfrey ”run for color, sports-inspired but oh-so-sexy dress in bold pink with racing stripes down the sides….Rev it up with a neon green exotic clutch.”
Another shows BCBG’s “perfect little trompe l’oeil pretty rock star dress” accessorized with big geometric jewels and ”dangerously sexy” Christian Louboutin shoes.
The video catalogue will be tested for four to eight weeks to gauge the impact on sales and traffic online. It’s prominently introduced on the home page, and could be expanded to men’s and other merchandise categories.
“Overall in the industry, we’ve been seeing catalogues going through a period of decline, particularly with the strength of the Internet,” Incandela said. “This is a way of combining the concept of the catalogue with the Internet and bringing it to a new level.” — David Moin
INDIA ON TV: India Hicks, model, beauty products maker, second cousin to Prince Charles and expert on all things Caribbean, is said to be filming a reality show for Bravo. A spokeswoman at the cable network declined comment, but sources said Hicks has been filming episodes in recent weeks. Although some have speculated as to what the show will be about (island life?), details could not be determined by press time. — A.W.