As it tries to change course, the New York-based publisher, helmed by president and chief executive officer Bob Sauerberg, on Monday looked at the top of the organization, uprooting two senior-level executives and adding a key hire to help restructure the business. The publisher tapped Jim Norton, a well-known AOL executive, for the new role of chief business officer and president of revenue. As Norton’s appointment was revealed, company stalwarts Edward Menicheschi, president of Condé Nast Media Group and chief marketing officer, and Jill Bright, chief administrative officer, with 55 years of Condé experience between them, exited.
The departure of Menicheschi and Bright from the company in a sense signals a larger changing of the guard. Always known to be a Sauerberg protégé of sorts, Menicheschi leaving Condé sends yet another signal to employees at One World Trade that a larger shakeup is looming. As for Bright, she had always been seen as part of former ceo and current chairman Charles Townsend’s team and her departure has stirred speculation over his potential retirement.
Inside Condé Nast on Monday, employees characterized the changes in myriad ways. Some expressed shock at the departures, while others said change has been expected at all levels of the company. Menicheschi, with his print-centric background, could be seen as an obvious fall guy for the challenged sales environment impacting Condé and all of its peers. And Bright, who had been moved to what sources described as a vague role in the licensing department in recent years, was said to have been absent from the company in the weeks leading up to her exit.
Regardless, it has been no secret that the company has been priming for an upheaval, as editors and publishers have been juggling leaner budgets that echo the slimming dimensions of their magazines. With one year as ceo under his belt, Sauerberg is also said to be under pressure from the company’s owners, the Newhouse family, to turn the tide. That may entail cutting jobs and perhaps closing smaller magazine titles, as it had last November when it pulled the plug on Details.
Condé Nast has declined to comment on speculation of a reorganization.
The company acknowledged that Norton’s hire is a step toward streamlining the organization as it moves to better position its business to sell digital and video advertising. Part of that streamlining includes a clearer reporting structure.
According to sources, Menicheschi, Condé’s top sales executive and head of sponsored content unit 23 Stories, left the company because he did not want to report to Norton, who starts Monday. In the new structure, all publishers will now report to Norton, where previously they reported to Sauerberg. The ceo will now have fewer direct reports, who will include Norton; Dawn Ostroff, president of Condé Nast Entertainment; chief financial officer David Geithner; JoAnn Murray, senior vice president; and Fred Santarpia, executive vice president and chief digital officer, among others.
“By organizing the company’s numerous revenue operations under Jim, Condé Nast will be well-positioned to quickly respond to the dynamic marketplace and our clients’ needs,” Sauerberg said Monday. “Jim brings a great understanding of the complexities of running a massive sales enterprise and the importance of data-led sales products to maximize our effectiveness. His digital and video media expertise, vast relationships with top global advertisers and commitment to business innovation will be instrumental in our continued transformation into a next-generation multimedia company.”
Norton is an industry veteran with more than 25 years’ experience in media sales and marketing. In his most recent role at AOL, he managed the global media sales team responsible for selling digital content media to advertising agencies and global businesses, with a team of more than 1,500, Condé Nast said. He played a role in the sale of AOL to Verizon and the “recently announced intention to acquire Yahoo,” the company said. Since joining AOL in 2009, Norton held additional senior roles in product sales, managed AOL’s search and sponsored listings business, and helped launch AOL’s Global Agency Holding Company team.
Prior to AOL, Norton spent three years at Google, where he was the national sales manager for Google’s Agency Activation Team. Before that, he spent many years working in traditional media focused on both local and national advertisers.
The departures of Menicheschi and Bright, and arrival of Norton, follow Condé Nast hiring MediaLink to advise on its reorganization. It could not be determined if Monday’s changes were part of MediaLink’s counsel, but such cost-cutting is one of the standard methods of most consultants.
There has been speculation that a reorganization could entail a reduction in publishing staff and a regrouping of executives by sales categories such as lifestyle or fashion. Although Condé has declined to comment on such theories, sources indicated on Monday that Norton will play a central role in how the company restructures the publishing side of the business.