GONE, BUT NOT FORGOTTEN: Another chapter in the drama that is Bonnie Fuller’s career is coming to a close. The tabloid queen gave up her throne at American Media Inc. on Tuesday, stepping down from her post as executive vice president, chief editorial director after five years. The company said that, as of today, Fuller will be an editor at large at Star and a consultant to AMI chief executive officer David Pecker. Her job — one that netted Fuller a much-discussed $2 million a year plus benefits and perks — will not be filled. The editor had another year left on her contract, which was renegotiated in April 2006.
While conspiracy theorists will no doubt have a field day as to the reasons the overtly ambitious Fuller gave in, she insisted the decision to leave was hers and that she had been mulling over quitting for a few weeks. “I felt like I want to go and pursue a new adventure and a new venture,” she told WWD. An AMI spokesman confirmed “the decision to resign was Bonnie Fuller’s. It was driven by her view that she had accomplished many of the things she has set out to do when she joined AMI in 2003.” Fuller also stressed she has a good working relationship with Pecker.
Fuller at one time was known as an innovator who had her pulse on the tastes and desires of American women. After editing Cosmopolitan, Glamour and Marie Claire, Jann Wenner hired her in 2002 to become editor in chief of Us Weekly, which she successfully reinvented (with much Sturm und Drang among staff) and made into a picture-driven glossy to take on category leader People. “She absolutely gets the credit for changing the game in the celebrity category. Even People owes it to her,” said one former colleague.
However, Fuller — who’s known for getting itchy feet after a while — left Us in July 2003 just as suddenly as her announcement Wednesday afternoon — AMI’s Pecker poached her with a huge salary package to reinvent the down-market Star into a slick newsstand friendly glossy. But while the strategy worked once at Us, it didn’t quite click at Star in the face of a People revival and continued growth of Us under Fuller acolyte Janice Min. Fuller’s diva-dom wasn’t quite as tolerated in the AMI hallways, and a job that initially was billed as having editorial oversight over all of the company’s weekly tabloid titles essentially shrank to managing Star. According to Audit Bureau of Circulations, single copy sales at Star have slid to around 700,000 from 920,000 in 2004.
This story first appeared in the May 14, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
A former boss of Fuller’s gave her credit as a brilliant editor, albeit one with faults (and which editor doesn’t have them?). “She did help them successfully reposition Star to a full-fledged celebrity slick magazine,” the source said. “She did it pretty well, and I think if she had had a good boss, she would have been ahead of Us Weekly by now.”
Speculation in the industry is that Fuller has been looking for a new gig for some time, leaving her office frequently to take meetings and even trying to lobby television honchos for a job. Fuller, however, said she was “very busy” at AMI in recent months, overseeing the covers each week at Star and redesigning Fit Pregnancy and Country Weekly. More recently, Fuller was rattled by the death of her mother, Tanya, with whom she had a close relationship. “Her mother always told her never leave a good job,” said Donald Robertson, senior vice president, creative development at Estée Lauder, who is a longtime Fuller confidant and creative director at the magazines she edited.
Though Fuller would not say what she planned on doing in her next act, she did say an announcement on her next project is forthcoming. “She’s always looking for the next thing.” remarked Robertson.
Her former boss added the parting of ways is a win-win for both Pecker and Fuller: “I think that [AMI] couldn’t afford her anymore. Bonnie found another job that she wants to take. Her current contract probably technically says she can’t take it. She probably went to David and said, ‘I haven’t been earning my pay anyway. I have an opportunity I’d like to pursue.’ He said, ‘Yes, but let’s do it in a cosmetic way.’ It’s not a bad day for David or Bonnie.”
— Stephanie D. Smith
BREAK OUT THE KNOLL CHAIRS: Remember Wallpaper — that temple to all things sleek, minimal and Swedish? Well, the magazine is trying to step back onto New York’s radar again, with former creative director and newish editor in chief Tony Chambers cohosting his first U.S. event with Jim Gold of Bergdorf Goodman this Friday. Artist Anthony Burrill created four covers of the June issue, which was devoted to the theme of work, and Bergdorf’s men’s store windows will feature displays inspired by the issue. The party also marks the 20th anniversary of the International Contemporary Furniture Fair. The magazine is upping its frequency from 10 to 12 issues starting this year, with July and January 2009 issues.
— Irin Carmon