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TIME FOR CHANGE: Time Inc. was jolted Thursday with a major shake-up that resulted in the exit of Martha Nelson, the company’s first female editor in chief in 90 years, and the return of Norman Pearlstine, who is leaving Bloomberg LP to become chief content officer, a new position.
The role of editor in chief, which was once described as having “papal luster” and was held by only six men before Nelson, was scrapped.
This story first appeared in the November 1, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Nelson, 61, decided to leave because of a significant change in the editorial structure of the company, chief executive officer Joe Ripp wrote in a message that arrived before many editors had even checked into their offices Thursday morning.
Managing editors, Ripp said, now report to business executives, the group presidents of Time’s magazine divisions, such as “style and entertainment,” which includes titles like InStyle and Essence, and “news and sports,” consisting of Time and Sports Illustrated, among others. For example, effective immediately, Nancy Gibbs, the recently named managing editor of Time magazine, will report to Todd Larsen.
“I respect her decision to move on at this time,” Ripp said of Nelson in his note to employees. Ripp and Pearlstine did not respond to requests for comment.
Pearlstine, 71, will have “oversight of our editorial policies and a dotted-line responsibility for editors,” Ripp said. He is tasked with working with both the editorial and the business teams of the company.
“We believe effective collaboration across business and editorial lines is imperative if we are to succeed as an independent company,” Ripp said. Time Inc. will be separated from Time Warner next year into an independently traded company.
The editorial reorganization, Ripp’s most dramatic move since he became ceo in July, was a significant departure for Time Inc., whose editors had reported to the editor in chief in the past, and raised questions about the church-and-state division of business and editorial.
In an effort to address these concerns, Ripp wrote Pearlstine will “uphold the commitment to quality journalism no matter where we choose to play.”
All Time managing editors were summoned to a 4 p.m. meeting on Thursday on the 34th floor of the Time-Life Building to clarify any other doubts.
Pearlstine was one of Nelson’s predecessors at the post of editor in chief of Time Inc., serving from 1995 to 2005. In 2008 he became chief content officer at Bloomberg, where he was also chairman of Bloomberg Businessweek. One of his accomplishments at Bloomberg was the acquisition of that business weekly and the appointment of Josh Tyrangiel, another Time alum, as its editor in chief.
Nelson, a company fixture for 20 years and the founding editor of InStyle, became editor in chief in December. Her tenure lasted less than a year, one of the shortest ever for a Time Inc. editor in chief.
“It is a difficult time but it’s also an exciting time and, in some ways, the most exciting, certainly in my lifetime,” Nelson told WWD at the time. She did not make any comments Thursday.
In his note, Ripp also said Maurice Edelson, general counsel and executive vice president of corporate development, is moving on to Time Warner as senior vice president and deputy general counsel.
Bloomberg did not have a successor lined up for Pearlstine. In a statement, ceo and president Daniel Doctoroff said Pearlstine’s impact at the company “will last for years to come.”