BELLANGER EXITS CONDE NAST POST
Byline: Miles Socha
PARIS — Gardner Bellanger resigned Wednesday as president and director general of Conde Nast France after a 36-year career with the international publishing group.
“It’s a very, very personal decision that I made and I presented it to our chairman and he accepted,” Bellanger told WWD. “We have made the French company one of the star publishing entities of Conde Nast worldwide and I was privileged to participate in that ascension. It’s time to let somebody else take over.
“I made the decision completely objectively. I would certainly like to do something else, but at the moment, I honestly don’t know,” she added.
Francois Dieulesaint, finance director and deputy director general of Conde Nast France, will act as head of the company while a search is undertaken for a successor. Jonathan Newhouse, chairman of Conde Nast International, set no timetable to find Bellanger’s successor and said it is possible that Dieulesaint could end up running the company in the long term.
Ironically, Bellanger’s unexpected exit comes at a time when speculation is buzzing about the future of Carine Roitfeld, who Bellanger installed a year ago as the editor-in-chief of French Vogue. Rumors abound about a divisive working environment at the magazine, clashes between various “cliques” and the possibility of Roitfeld leaving.
Bellanger was adamant that her resignation had “nothing to do with a conflict between Carine Roitfeld and me. Carine was my choice, she remains my choice and I will never backtrack on that decision. She’s the finest stylist there is today.”
Newhouse also gave Roitfeld a ringing endorsement. “Carine is one of the most brilliant editors working in the world today and we are very, very fortunate to have her at French Vogue,” he said Wednesday.
Advertising at the magazine was up 11.5 percent to 1,418 pages last year, but slipped 23.4 percent in January and February. Newhouse said pages to date are now running flat compared with last year, “which in this economy is quite good.” The March 2002 issue, with 177 pages, set a record, he noted. The total paid circulation inched up slightly last year to 108,000.
Of Bellanger’s departure, Newhouse said: “We are very sorry to see her go. She’s made an enormous contribution.”
Bellanger joined Conde Nast in 1966, starting as a junior editor at American Vogue in Paris. She moved to the advertising side of the magazine in the Seventies and ultimately rose to associate publisher. She moved to Conde Nast France in 1994 as publisher of French Vogue and was named president several months later. After a few difficult years, during which the company was forced to close French Glamour and Maison et Jardin, Bellanger lead a growth phase headlined by a renaissance at French Vogue under the editors Joan Juliet Buck, and now Roitfeld.
In 1998, Bellanger established a contract magazine division, which now publishes Air France Madame and other titles. In 1999, she set up an Internet division, CondeNet France, which operates the popular Web site Vogue.com.
At present, Conde Nast France also publishes AD, the French edition of Architectural Digest, and Vogue Hommes International, a biannual men’s magazine. Last year, ad pages were up 31.2 percent at AD and 14 percent at Vogue Hommes. “The outlook for us is very positive,” Newhouse stressed.
Told of renewed market speculation that a relaunch of French Glamour could be in the offing, Newhouse said nothing is imminent but “it could be considered a future project. We’ve launched Glamour in Italy, Germany and Britain and in all three markets, it’s become the number one women’s monthly in circulation.”