TOP DOG/UNDERDOG: Gruner + Jahr finally settled on a replacement for Daniel Brewster, who was fired in January following a controversy over inflated circulation figures and a bitter legal dispute over the collapse of the Rosie O’Donnell magazine. The new president and chief executive officer, Russell Denson, makes the leap from Reiman Media Group, a subsidiary of The Reader’s Digest Assn., where he held the same title.
“It’s a very tough job,” said a leading media analyst. “[G+J] has been badly wounded and some dramatic surgery needs to be done.”
Denson told WWD he believes much of that surgery is already under way, citing the recent hire of executive vice president of consumer marketing Cindy Still, who will conduct routine circulation audits and aims, as Denson put it, “to be the gold standard of circulation reporting.”
As for the editorial content of the company’s titles, which include Family Circle, Fast Company and YM, Denson said, “The newsstand today is very crowded. We need to find our place in it.” YM in particular is feeling the strain of competitors such as Cosmogirl, Teen Vogue and Seventeen. According to the Media Industry Newsletter, ad pages at the monthly are down almost 46 percent in the first half of 2004 to 271. In March, Axel Ganz, president of G+J’s international division and interim ceo, authorized YM’s new editor in chief Linda Frears to give the magazine a design overhaul, which will hit newsstands in August.
“Growth is important and Gruner + Jahr’s willingness and capacity to grow is what drew me to the company,” said Denson. “My first order of business will be to reach out externally to advertisers and calm the waters and reach out to employees here to establish a common understanding of each title.” — Jeff Bercovici and Sara James
DON’T PASS THE GUACAMOLE: Barbara Walters, known for exercising the tear ducts of celebrities on national television, talked about shedding a tear of her own on Thursday’s broadcast of her show, “The View.” Walters pulled out a black-and-white beaded jacket she had purchased the day before at Giorgio Armani, and said, “It’s the most expensive piece of clothing I have ever bought in my life!” Just hours after she paid for the jacket, which retails for $8,225, Walters attended a party where a guest spilled a glass of red wine on the sleeve. Then one of the servers dribbled guacamole on the lapel. “I looked at the red, and I looked at the guacamole, and I thought about what I paid, and I took the jacket off and I cried,” said Walters before giving Armani a plug. “They make beautiful clothes.”
Shortly after the segment aired, employees at the Armani boutique were busy making arrangements with dry cleaner-to-the-elite George Torpe, who runs a referrals-only business on the Upper East Side. “There is quite a bit of wine and quite a bit of guacamole,” said Torpe, upon examining the jacket. “We have two very different types of stains here. And because of the heavy beading, it all has to be done by hand.” Despite the difficulty of the job, Torpe was sure he would have the jacket back to Barbara, good as new, by the end of next week. “Then again,” he said, “Monday is a holiday.” — S.J.