Only 48 hours ago Stefano Tonchi was going on a decade as editor in chief of W magazine. Today he’s suing his former publisher.
Tonchi filed a breach of contract suit in local Manhattan court against Advance Publications Inc., the parent company of Condé Nast asking for just over $1 million in damages, claiming he was wrongfully terminated.
In his brief complaint, Tonchi argued that he “has not been convicted of a felony or abused his office, or intentionally failed to perform any material duties for which he has been responsible as editor in chief of W or otherwise, or violated any material term of the employment agreement.” Nevertheless, he says Condé claims to have fired him “for cause,” meaning the company did not have to fulfill any termination requirements in his employment contract, like severance.
A Conde spokesman called Tonchi’s claims “patently false.”
“Condé Nast has a long track record of honoring all our obligations and more,” the spokesman added. “We look forward to defending the case in court.”
According to Tonchi, his base salary was around $800,000 and his contract called for severance equal to that, along with coverage of health insurance. It even called for an additional $400,000 in salary to be paid if he could not find work a year out from his termination. But that is only if he was fired or laid off without “cause,” which he said is defined only as a felony conviction, “abuse of office” or some failure to perform his professional duties.
Tonchi also signed a “closing bonus” when Condé last year (still under the leadership of former chief executive Bob Sauerberg) decided to sell W, along with Brides and Golf Digest. That contract purportedly specified that his employment contract “remain unchanged” and Tonchi went about locating potential buyers for W and met with several at the “behest” of Condé and Advance executives.
In the end, which was yesterday, W was sold to executives and financiers behind Surface Magazine, a deal Tonchi purportedly no longer supported after WWD reporting on the reputation of Surface, the ceo’s previous history and that of his backers. Tonchi wrote in his complaint that he was informed at a meeting Tuesday morning that he was being terminated for cause, and would not receive any of the pay laid out in his employment or closing bonus agreements. He added that the two executives he met with “did not provide any facts that constituted cause.” He’s said to have been escorted out of the building after the termination meeting.
“Defendants have unlawfully and improperly tried to invoke ’cause,’ absent any supporting facts, to avoid paying plaintiff the severance benefits and closing bonus amounts he is owed,” the complaint reads.
Tonchi is demanding $950,000 in damages, along with at least $130,000 in interest, putting his tally at $1.08 million.
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