Pride Media’s chief executive officer is out after less than a year in which the newly formed publishing company started to get major pushback for letting magazine contributors go unpaid.
Nathan Coyle, who last summer became Pride’s ceo as the company was re-branding itself as the new owner of queer magazines like Out and The Advocate, left the job today, to take over as ceo at Ford Models. He’s succeeding Nancy Chen, who’s been ceo of Ford since the start of 2016. A Ford spokeswoman declined to comment.
Coyle’s exit is said to have been unexpected by Pride owner Adam Levin, the founder of Oreva Capital and also the owner of High Times magazine, although rumors had been going around that the ceo was actively looking for another job. Orlando Reece, chief revenue officer since August, is said to be taking over as interim ceo and still-new Out editor Phillip Picardi might be taking on more responsibilities in leading editorial.
But Coyle’s relatively short time with Pride has been eventful. The company last year started to feel pushback from former contributors to Out magazine after the summer departure of a majority of the magazine’s staff and its longtime editor in chief Aaron Hicklin. There were some long-standing issues of non- or untimely payment that apparently worsened when an unusual outsourcing arrangement for production came under the oversight of Pride. While the arrangement came to an end late last year, payment issues persisted, and even grew to affect new staffers and freelancers working for Pride. Just a few months after Coyle lured Picardi from Teen Vogue to lead Out, complete with a redesign and efforts to widen the audience, editorial staff was subject to pay cuts and layoffs.
Then came the start of a war of words between Coyle/Pride and Out’s former production partner, McCarthy Media, and its owner, Evanly Schindler. Each blamed the other for freelancers going unpaid, with Coyle accusing McCarthy of “fraud” and McCarthy calling it “a tactic.” This back-and-forth quickly turned into $10 million lawsuit, which is said to already be in early stage settlement talks.
But still, the issue of nonpayment for contributors persists. While some have been paid after a barrage of e-mails, or after the filing of lawsuits in small claims court, many others have not. Talks with the National Writers Union, working with a few dozen unpaid Out writers for a full settlement seem to come to have hit a snag a few weeks ago. But already, the new leadership at Pride is said to have gotten in touch with NWU about moving forward.
As of late, sources have it that Coyle has been noncommunicative with editors at the magazines, who have been working on some payment grievances directly as contributors feel they have no avenue to address the issue. As for Coyle, who could not be immediately reached for comment, he’s said to be blaming owner Levin, claiming promised funds haven’t come through and left him in a bind. On the other side, there is said to be frustration with Coyle, who was expected to land investment deals for Pride, and is said to have not done so.
Coyle’s jump to the agency side is not unprecedented. He actually worked for several years as a talent agent at CAA before jumping into digital media. And a few years ago, Bill Wackermann became ceo of Wilhelmina International after years as a publishing executive at Condé Nast.
Even with all the tumult, Pride is said to still be focusing on growing the business with Reece and, on the editorial side, Picardi in the driver’s seat. Sales for the year so far are thought to be up by around 35 percent. When Levin took over the Pride titles from Here Media, the ultimate goal in bringing on a ceo was said to be growth and getting the company ready for a Reg A+ filing (known as a “mini-IPO” — something akin to a regulated crowdfunding campaign, which High Times is struggling with). Those plans are thought to be on indefinite hold.
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