NEW FIELD FOR FIELDEN: On Wednesday around 2:30 p.m., the Town & Country staff gathered for a meeting expecting to watch editor in chief Stephen Drucker present the March issue, which features Lauren Santo Domingo on the cover, and to hear Drucker and creative and design director David Lipman talk about their first round of changes to the magazine. Instead, the staff found Hearst Magazines president David Carey with a surprise: Drucker was leaving the title and former Men’s Vogue editor in chief Jay Fielden would be taking over. Hearst publishing director Michael Clinton broke the news to the business side.

Those inside Hearst Tower insist Drucker resigned of his own accord and, after the announcement was made, colleagues noticed he had a spring in his step and was clearly very happy about the decision. Later in the afternoon, Fielden stopped by and received a toast from Drucker.

This story first appeared in the January 20, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“It was the first time I met Stephen and he just tucked me under his right arm and welcomed me on board,” Fielden told WWD. “We spent an hour and a half talking in his office about all sorts of things. He’s an elegant, generous guy.”

Fielden has only been in talks with Hearst brass for two weeks about the job and his first day will be March 1. The appointment caps off a big year for Fielden, who lost his New Canaan, Conn., home to a fire in October. “We’ve recovered and moved into another house,” he said.

He also has been collaborating with Vogue creative director Grace Coddington on her memoirs. “I’m just really enthusiastic and happy for him,” said Coddington. The memoirs, the pair’s second collaboration, are still in the planning stages, she said, adding she wasn’t worried about how Fielden will juggle the project with his new responsibilities. “We’ll work in the evenings when we can,” Coddington said.

Fielden said he plans to build on Drucker and Lipman’s direction at the magazine — or at least for now. “This is one of the last great general interest magazines that can be versatile and modernized,” he said. Since taking over, Drucker had been making subtle changes to the title but not-so-subtle changes to the masthead, letting go of no fewer than 15 people. He also floated different cover ideas (for example, he put Ina Garten and Nora Ephron on the December cover and Lake Bell on the next). On the ad side, paging rose 7 percent in 2010, to 957. Drucker and Carey did not return requests for comment.

So what’s next for Drucker? Sources said it’s hard to believe he doesn’t already have something lined up and a move to book publishing is the odds-on favorite. In the last few months, Jon Meacham and Ruth Reichl have both started cushy gigs at Random House.