ONTO THE NEXT: Ambidextrous editorial executive Jess Cagle’s last day at Meredith is slated for March 31, but his successor could be named as soon as this week. A Meredith spokeswoman would only say Wednesday that his replacement would be named shortly.
Cagle, who has served as People’s editor in chief for five years, plans to move out of Meredith’s lower Manhattan offices when his contract expires at the end of the month. He will also be exiting his role as editorial director of Entertainment Weekly and People en Español. Before departing, Cagle will oversee the closing of the April 8 issue. He oversaw the teams at each respective title.
After taking several months off, including a belated honeymoon in Bora Bora, Cagle said “working on fun projects” is what really excites him. While there are different opportunities that have cropped up, he said he has been very careful not to get deep into negotiations while still at Meredith. “The favorite parts of my job have always been doing interviews both on radio and video. I do a lot of television. I’m doing voiceovers for People Magazine Investigates this season. I definitely want to write more. I’m thinking about a book. I’ve developed television before — scripted and unscripted — so I’m thinking about that as well,” Cagle said. “All of those things are in the mix.”
In an internal memo to colleagues that was first reported Wednesday by Entertainment Weekly, Cagle said, “I’ve decided it’s time to do some other things while I’m still young — or at least alive. It’s also time for me to live in Los Angeles full-time under the same roof as my husband and dog.”
The West Coast is familiar territory to Cagle professionally, too, since Entertainment weekly is based there. A true company man, Cagle logged 32 years at Time Inc.-turned-Meredith, breaking into the media scene as a People reporter in 1987. During his tenure, Cagle rose up the ranks with runs also at Time and Entertainment Weekly. In addition to the “work, friends, mentors, memories and experiences,” Cagle’s memo referenced, “a life that, frankly, I cannot believe is mine. I wish for all of you the same joy, opportunity, and fulfillment in your careers, and look forward to seeing you continue to grow and evolve these brands during this tumultuous but exciting media era.”
The exodus of longtime editors and publishers is an ongoing procession in New York media circles. A Meredith spokeswoman noted that Cagle’s decision was his own. While some outlets are inclined to hold off on replacing top-shelf, well-compensated talent as a cost-cutting measure, Meredith is said to be taking a more proactive route in naming a successor. Cagle declined to comment whether an internal or external person will take the reins.
In thanking Cagle in an internal memo, “for his award-winning talent, tireless energy and numerous contributions that have helped solidify People’s place as the number-one source for delivering trusted celebrity and human interest journalism,” Bruce Gersh, the executive vice president and president of People, EW, and People en Español, said the magazine is “in the best shape of its life reaching 1 in 3 adults nationwide.”
But like Condé Nast, Hearst and others, Meredith has had its share of slicing and dicing. After selling Fortune to Thai billionaire Chatchaval Jiaravanon, who owns the Thai conglomerate Charoen Pokphand Group, for $150 million in cash last fall, Meredith indicated last month that the sale of Sports Illustrated and Money was taking longer than expected.
Presenting a rosy outlook via a memo to staff last month, Tom Harty, who has also been chief executive officer for about a year, boasted that Meredith’s much expanded portfolio now counts roughly 45 million subscriptions and drives around $500 million in annual retail sales for advertisers through affiliate marketing and e-commerce deals, as well as through Meredith’s own brand licensing efforts. Consumer-driven revenue and e-commerce now apparently account for half of Meredith’s business, as Harty noted advertising generates “approximately half” of Meredith’s annual revenue, as reported by WWD.