Is this the week Condé Nast staffers have been dreading?
Higher-ups at the New York-based publisher are said to have earmarked this week for the long-rumored consolidation of the business side of the company. Insiders pointed to three big meetings that will take place at the end of January as reason for the timing. Employees will gather on Jan. 31 for an all-staff meeting, following which Condé Nast International executives will have their meeting at the New York headquarters. A business staff meeting led by chief business officer and president of revenue Jim Norton will come after that.
Norton, who is the architect of the business consolidation, was brought in late last year from AOL to slash costs and evolve the company’s digital business.
The consolidation moves are believed to include a reduction of publishers and the promotion of key executives to the roles of chief marketing officer and chief revenue officer. (The word “publisher” is also expected to be replaced by the title of general manager and chief revenue officer in order to project an image of being less reliant on print even though the majority of Condé’s revenue continues to be derived from it.)
Although it is still uncertain which publishers — or should we say “general manager and chief revenue officer?” — will remain in place, there appears to be consensus that Vanity Fair’s Chris Mitchell, Vogue’s Susan Plagemann and GQ’s Howard Mittman are part of a core team that will keep their current roles. (Mittman is rumored to be adding Golf Digest to his list of titles, as chief revenue officer Pete Hunsinger has left the company for a new gig.)
The front-runner for chief marketing officer is Pam Drucker Mann, the chief revenue officer and publisher of the Food Innovation Group, which includes Bon Appétit and Epicurious, sources said.
Lisa Valentino, the chief revenue officer of Condé Nast Entertainment and senior vice president of network sales for Condé, is expected by sources to be getting the title of chief revenue officer for the entire company. Meanwhile, Josh Stinchcomb, the senior vice president and managing director of 23 Stories, is likely to get an expanded role. The exact nature of that role could not be learned.
Of course, with any consolidation comes layoffs. There already has been a considerable amount of cutting on the editorial side, as Condé Nast consolidated its creative directors, copy and photo editors. Restructuring on the publishers’ side naturally puts into question certain publications and their business leaders. It is rumored the firm is looking at further consolidating Glamour, Allure and Brides, for instance, and that W Magazine is expected to be rolled up into Vogue’s business side. But sources have indicated that such changes do not necessarily mean that publishers of the aforementioned titles would exit the company, as some would likely be offered new roles. Still, a few publishers will be let go in the shakeup, WWD has learned. And, newly promoted leaders will then begin assessing their teams and making their own adjustments.
While Condé will likely — and justifiably — explain that all these changes stem from declining print revenues and the need to restructure the group to become more digitally oriented, there may be an even broader reason down the line.
Several well-placed sources have speculated that Norton could be helping to prep the company for an eventual sale by its owners, the Newhouse family. Condé Nast parent company Advance did not respond to requests for comment on the sale rumors.
Insiders told WWD that Condé has in the past held talks about a potential sale with selective companies. It could not be learned how serious those discussions were or whether they were merely theoretical — or whether they are ongoing.
Should the Newhouses decide to sell what is considered the crown jewel in their Advance empire, sources said the most likely suitor would be longtime rival, and also family-owned, Hearst. They mused that Hearst would be able to consolidate the fashion and beauty advertising market while getting into new areas.
All agreed, though, that a sale is not imminent.
“There’s no truth to this,” a Hearst Magazines spokeswoman said of Condé as a potential acquisition target.
Sources whispered that other possible suitors that have been speculated about at various points have included Apple and Google. But those rumors may be conflated by the fact that the publisher has inked deals with both companies. Apple, which is working with Condé Nast Entertainment, did not return requests seeking comment. Google, on the other hand, provided a pun-laden “no comment” that name-dropped several Condé Nast-owned titles.
“You seem Wired into the latest chatter. We got some Backchannel from a New Yorker that this gossip was en Vogue. When your question came in and we Reddit, it made us quite Epicurious because your stories have some Allure. But Self-ishly we don’t comment on rumors (Glamour-ous or otherwise). Bon Appétit!,” the spokesperson offered.
Maybe they Googled how to write a witty response.