CARUSO CRUISES: Jann Wenner already agreed to give one top editor a hefty raise this year. Apparently, he wasn’t going to do it again.
Michael Caruso, editor in chief of Men’s Journal, resigned Tuesday, having failed to come to terms on a new contract. (News of his departure was first reported by Mediaweek’s Web site.) Though his current contract isn’t set to expire until the end of the month, Caruso, who recently closed the December issue, is not expected back in the office. The company has been quietly talking to potential replacements for several weeks, and the word going around Tuesday was that James Kaminsky, Playboy’s former editorial director and currently an assistant managing editor at Rolling Stone, is the top candidate for the job.
When Caruso arrived at Men’s Journal in November 2003 — becoming the fifth editor in chief in as many years — the magazine lacked a coherent editorial identity and was losing money, to the point where Wenner was considering folding it, according to a company source. Repositioned as a gear-and-graphics-heavy adventure guide, the magazine has surged in newsstand sales (up 35 percent in the first half of 2005, to 102,384) and ad pages (closing the year with 1,023, up 13.6 percent from last year), according to publisher Carlos Lamadrid. “I think Michael felt he should be compensated for that on some level, and obviously they couldn’t come to an agreement on it,” he said.
Several factors complicated the negotiation, according to sources. For starters, Caruso was unemployed when Wenner hired him, meaning he likely agreed to a lower salary than he might have otherwise. (He declined to comment for this story.) Then there was the very public haggling over Us Weekly editor in chief Janice Min‘s new contract, which reportedly resulted in a salary of $1.2 million a year. “I think the Janice thing played into it,” said an insider. “If one of your co-workers is making the money she reportedly was making, it gives you an indication of what you can get.”
Except that it didn’t, in this case. Whereas Us Weekly is a major cash generator for Wenner, Men’s Journal is only modestly profitable. More importantly, like Rolling Stone, Men’s Journal always has been a direct expression of Wenner’s interests. Thus, say sources, his tendency is to regard whoever happens to be editing it at the moment as a replaceable deputy. As one rival men’s magazine editor put it: “Whenever the magazine’s doing well, Jann likes to get in there and show he can do it better.”
— Jeff Bercovici