Chirichella stepped into the role on an interim basis in July, immediately after Young’s exit amid accusations of inappropriate comments and behavior toward coworkers, as first reported by The New York Times.
Before becoming interim president, Chirichella was executive vice president and chief financial officer at Hearst, which publishes Elle, Esquire, Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan among others. She joined the company in 2011 as senior vice president and chief financial officer.
Prior to joining Hearst, Chirichella was chief operating officer at rival Condé Nast beginning in 2008 and took on the same responsibility at Fairchild Fashion Group, which then owned WWD, a year later until 2011. She was previously chief financial officer Condé between 2004 to 2008.
“Debi has been a key part of our magazine company leadership team for almost a decade and has a very strong command of all aspects of this business,” said chief executive officer Steven R. Swartz. “She has expertly led the division over the past several months, and we are confident in the future as Debi and her team continue to build on the legacy of our great brands around the world.”
Chirichella added: “This is an important moment in our culture and in our industry, and I am honored to lead our remarkable teams at this time of transformation. With the strength of our beloved brands and the imagination and insight of the many people who power them in every form, we are on a positive path with our eyes toward the future.”
In her role as president, Chirichella will have to navigate the company through the coronavirus pandemic, which has hit publishers hard by diminishing already struggling advertising revenue streams. While its competitors Condé and Meredith Corp. have implemented layoffs and pay cuts, Hearst has gradually been reducing the frequency of a number of its titles. Elle magazine, the company’s biggest fashion title, will publish 10 issues this year instead of 12 in 2019, Cosmopolitan will release 10 versus 12, Harper’s Bazaar is at nine compared to 10 and Marie Claire will publish just seven issues down from 11.
Hearst has also been ramping up its use of paywalls as an alternative revenue stream, with the likes of Cosmopolitan, Popular Mechanics and Men’s Health all recently introducing membership programs. Similar programs have also been unveiled at Good Housekeeping, Women’s Health and Bicycling, while Runner’s World has had one since 2019.
Elsewhere, Chirichella will be tasked with negotiating contracts with hundreds of staffers who voted in July to form a union with the Writers Guild of America, East. Chirichella’s views of the union are unknown.
Young is widely viewed as having spearheaded a fierce opposition campaign to the union, allegedly engaging in a number of union-busting tactics. This resulted in the WGAE filing an unfair labor practice charge against Young with the federal National Labor Relations Board.
According to The Times, Young’s inappropriate behavior in the workplace allegedly included him emailing pornography to former Esquire editor in chief Jay Fielden and making lewd comments about sex toys in the Cosmopolitan office.
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