Joe Ripp is stepping down as chief executive officer and president of Time Inc., the magazine publisher said early Tuesday.
Ripp, who was brought in to help the firm find its footing as it spun off from Time Warner and became a public company two years ago, has been succeeded by Rich Battista. The new president and ceo most recently served as executive vice president of the firm and will join the board of directors. Time Inc. said that Ripp will serve as executive chairman.
Ripp told WWD Tuesday that when he joined the company in 2013, he had a “timeframe” in mind for his exit but a recent “health incident” made him re-evaluate if he wanted to “devote 100 percent” of his time to the job. Although he is well now, Ripp explained: “I came back three years ago at Time Inc. with the goal of taking the company public and changing its culture… and giving it the opportunity to be the multi-faceted company it could be.”
Under his stewardship, Ripp has helped develop Time Inc.’s native advertising offering and evolved its digital presence, as well as inking several deals, including the acquisition of Viant, an important one for the company.
“I am deeply grateful to have had the opportunity to lead this tremendous company for the past three years, and I am excited about its future,” the exec said. “We have made real progress in the transformation into a multimedia, multi-platform enterprise. As we look to the next phase of our strategy, Rich is the right choice to execute our plans and deliver shareholder value.”
Battista added: “I wouldn’t have taken this role if I didn’t think where we could take this company. What Joe has done is that he’s changed the tone and tenor of this company. We have to find interesting ways to build our brands.”
One brand extension that Battista recently helped usher in was a partnership between Time Inc.’s Sports Illustrated and Fox Sports to create a joint digital sports network.
“One of the things that inspired me the most is to see how the outside world wants to work with us,” Battista said, citing how Time Inc. has expanded its reach beyond print magazines, to video, digital and live events. “Native advertising continues to be a big push.”
He continued: “During this dynamic time in media, we are transforming Time Inc. to a cross-media company and are uniquely positioned to leverage our brands, scale, data and insights to significantly grow new lines of business in service to advertisers, marketers and consumers. I am eager to get started and to win.”
Battista, a 25-year veteran of the entertainment and media industry, joined Time Inc. in 2015. Prior to that he served as ceo of Mandalay Sports Media, where he led the media and content enterprise by creating, acquiring and investing in businesses and assets across the sports media landscape. Over a period of more than 18 years, Battista held numerous senior management roles at Fox Television, where he was integral in conceiving of, building and operating its multi-billion-dollar portfolio of networks, Time Inc. said. As ceo of the publicly traded Gemstar-TV Guide International from 2004 to 2008, Battista was the chief architect of the company’s turnaround, which included the revitalization of TV Guide magazine, TV Guide Network and TV Guide Online, as well as enhancement of its technology-driven businesses.
John Fahey, lead independent director, offered his thanks to Ripp, “On behalf of the board, I want to thank Joe for his work as ceo over the past three years. We are grateful for his leadership and are happy that he will continue with the company as executive chairman. Rich is a strong, experienced business builder who has an excellent grasp of our strategy and brands. We are confident that he is the right leader for the future.”
Although Time Inc. said it is on pace to meet its third-quarter expectations of total revenues and operating expenses, there has been much disruption at the publisher, which recently underwent a massive reorganization across its editorial, business and corporate teams. There has also been rumors of a potential sale–the latest is to Meredith Corp.
Both Battista and Ripp said that Time Inc. isn’t looking to sell, in fact the mere suggestion delighted the executives.
“The reality is that nobody is shopping the company around,” Ripp said. “The interesting part of this is that no one was talking about shopping the company around before. We were the dying dog of the industry…you will probably hear more of these rumors.”
Asked whether the reorganization—which Ripp called one of the “largest in the company’s history”—was part of the reason for the changing of the guard, Battista said “absolutely not.”
Ripp said the “flowers” of the reorganization, which includes the elimination of the traditional publisher role, are “blooming.”
Still, both Ripp and Battista acknowledged a challenging road ahead, as Time Inc. is a public company.
“Now we have to start delivering the proof points,” said Ripp.