WOLFF AT THE DOOR?: After weeks of speculation, it appears Prometheus chairman Jimmy Finkelstein has finally decided to keep Michael Wolff around. The question is whether Wolff wants to stay around at this point.
Throughout September, various reports suggested that Wolff’s tenure as editorial director of AdWeek was all but over. Earlier this week, for the first time, Finkelstein publicly offered Wolff a tepid vote of confidence when he told paidContent, “Michael’s name is still on the masthead. He’s not being fired. If I were going to fire someone, it would not be in the pages of the magazine or a news site.”
This story first appeared in the October 7, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
There were enough qualifiers in Finkelstein’s statement to make people inside AdWeek believe that Wolff’s job was still on the line.
So much so that, on Thursday morning, Wolff told an audience assembled for an event that he wasn’t sure if he’d still have a job “an hour from now” and that “it’s a nervous time.” But an AdWeek source told WWD that Finkelstein told Wolff point blank later in the day that he isn’t going anywhere.
“Michael talked to Jimmy,” said the insider. “Jimmy said he is not firing Michael and is confident they can work out their differences. Michael seems less confident.”
Finkelstein and Wolff have worked closely only over the last two months or so and it hasn’t been easy. After chief executive officer Richard Beckman was stripped of his day-to-day powers in late July, Finkelstein took the role of overseeing Prometheus’ publications, which include AdWeek, The Hollywood Reporter and Billboard. Finkelstein, owner of the trade publication The Hill, wants to bring AdWeek closer to a traditional trade; Wolff was brought in to make the magazine more consumer focused. There has been tension between the two ever since and, in mid-September, stories began appearing in the New York Post claiming Wolff’s job was in trouble.
At an event at Pricewaterhouse-Coopers auditorium on Madison Avenue on Thursday, advertising executive Richard Kirshenbaum asked Wolff, “There have been a lot of stories circulating about AdWeek. What actually is going on at AdWeek?”
“I have a job, I am still employed,” Wolff said. “That story may be different if you ask me or the New York Post an hour from now. I think there is, within our company, a discussion going on. And it’s a discussion about what this magazine should be. There’s one side which — I’m characterizing it and I’m sure these sides would characterize it differently — but one side which I think wants a magazine that tells a smaller story, the smaller story would be about the traditional advertising trade magazine story: Who’s winning what accounts? And then there’s another side which wants a larger story, which is the incredible transformation that’s going on in our business — the conflict between old and new, a riveting tale. I would not want me to tell the former story; the latter story, I think I’m a pretty good choice. There’s no decision within the company of which way to go. It’s a nervous time for everybody.”