At an all-hands meeting on Friday led by Condé’s chief executive officer Roger Lynch, he clarified to staff that Wintour is not leaving the company, sources told WWD. Wintour is not only the editor in chief of Vogue for the last 32 years, but the artistic director of Condé since 2014, overseeing all of the publisher’s remaining magazines and digital brands.
A spokesman for Condé confirmed, repeatedly, that Wintour is indeed staying in her roles.
Last summer, Lynch also gave Wintour the additional title of global content adviser for Condé, which is still in the process of combining its U.S. and international operations after decades as separate entities with separate leadership. At the time, Lynch made it a point to clarify Wintour’s ongoing position with the company, as well as that of The New Yorker editor David Remnick, as speculation was happening that neither editor would want to stay and work for a new ceo who is also the first true Condé outsider to take on the job.
But in the run-up to a late Thursday story published in The New York Times, New York media and fashion circles were buzzing with the rumor that the story was going to reveal Wintour’s resignation. Vogue staffers were talking openly with one another about the possibility; there were a number of tweets from media types claiming to have heard that Wintour was on the way out; fashion insiders were texting each other, saying they’d heard the end was nigh.
Alas, the rumors seem to be just that, and an addition to what has been a decade, at least, of talk that Wintour is on her way out. The situation is very similar to a few weeks in summer 2018, when an amount of certainty took hold in fashion circles that Wintour was leaving Vogue. Condé’s former ceo Bob Sauerberg had to come out publicly to tell WWD that Wintour was staying with the publisher “indefinitely” in order to quell the rumors.
Nevertheless, the Times story on Thursday night attempted to lay out a case for why Wintour may not survive the current outcry over a lack of diversity in media, namely Vogue’s intentional brand of elitism and Wintour’s decades at the helm of a magazine that only in recent years has made a push toward diverse covers, editorial and content. As the protests over the police killing of George Floyd have turned into a movement on the issue of racism in America, people in media and the public at large are demanding true change at all sorts of institutions regarding diversity, as well as retribution for longtime bad actors, many of whom have been found working in media. Notably at Condé’s Bon Appetit and Vice’s Refinery 29, both publications have seen their editors abruptly resign in the last week over revelations of racism, both overt and institutionalized.
The recently released memoirs of André Leon Talley, Vogue’s former creative director of many years, also brought some renewed criticism of Wintour. Although Talley told WWD that the book “is not a vengeful book about Vogue and Anna Wintour,” those two factors have gotten it much press. And he said that issues regarding his age and weight led, in part, to his eventual departure from the magazine and his long friendship with Wintour.
“From a humanitarian perspective, she left me with psychological scars,” Talley told WWD at the end of April. “I was often left blowing in the wind without any explanation, which I think perhaps she should have given me.”
Insiders, however, say Wintour is not planning to step back from Condé any time in the immediate future. Her legacy at Vogue is of paramount concern, and her dedication to American fashion at large is still very strong. She is said to be determined to see it out of the current economic crisis caused by measures to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
She is also said to still have the full support of Steven Newhouse, chairman and ceo of Condé owner Advance Publications, who maintains much control over the publisher. If Wintour wants to leave Vogue at some point, the timing of her departure is thought to be largely up to her, at least for now. Vogue is still a big driver of revenue for Conde, accounting for 28 percent of total revenue, by far the most of any other title. The next closest is GQ, which accounts for 13 percent of the company’s revenue.
But it is thought that Wintour will leave Vogue, someday. And there is said to be some level of succession planning in place for that eventuality. Sources have it that current thinking is for Edward Enninful to take over U.S. Vogue while also continuing to lead U.K. Vogue, which he took over in 2017 to much fanfare.
Enninful is said to have a good relationship with Jonathan Newhouse, who led Condé’s international operations from London until Lynch came in last year to combine the company into one, as well as with his wife Ronnie Newhouse. Newhouse is now chairman of Condé, an oversight role. Enninful also has proven adept at nabbing major celebrity covers and collaborators, like Rihanna, Oprah and Meghan Markle, and his updating of the look of the magazine is said to have gone over well internally. Not to mention having Enninful across two publications would save millions of dollars in salary and allow for an easy ability to share content and resources across titles.
Should this passing of the Vogue mantle come to pass, a number of sources say Wintour would actually stay with Condé in her broader corporate role of artistic director. The precedent for that is Alexander Liberman, who worked with Condé for 58 years, moving on from decades as Vogue’s art director to editorial director of all Condé’s publications until he was in his early 80s.
For now, Wintour is still very much the leader of Vogue. She’s held meetings this week with staff, in which she’s said to have given no inkling that a leadership change is coming, and is said to have already made some new plans to get a more diverse masthead and contributor pool for the magazine. She also sent staff something of mea culpa memo, two days after Bon Appetit’s editor was deposed.
“This is a historic and heartbreaking moment for our country and it should be a time of listening, reflection, and humility for those of us in positions of privilege and authority,” Wintour wrote in the memo. “It should also be a time of action and commitments. On a corporate level, work is being done to support organizations in a real way. These actions will be announced as soon as possible.”
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