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RUSSELL DENSON, Gruner + Jahr USA, chief executive officer

WHY: Denson was brought on board at Gruner + Jahr USA in May to repair the damage caused by his predecessor, Dan Brewster, who left the company reeling from circulation scandals and with no clear strategy for the grab bag of titles. In the short time he’s been there, Denson has already shut down the magazine development unit, decreased payroll by 15 percent and sold YM to Condé Nast. Despite repeated denials, speculation persists that Denson is planning further sales of Gruner + Jahr’s remaining American assets.

WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT HIM: Mark Edmiston, managing director of AdMedia Partners, who earlier this month brokered the YM deal, said, “He’s done the stuff that needs to be done to get the ship stabilized — trimming expenses, selling YM. Now he’s got to focus on growing the business.”

AMY ASTLEY, Teen Vogue, editor in chief

WHY: Condé Nast’s purchase of YM’s subscriber file and newsstand pockets basically constituted a $15 million vote of confidence in Teen Vogue (the company also took on an additional $15 million in debt from circulation liabilities). Now, Astley, who carved out a midsized niche in the teen market with her hip blend of high-low fashion, indie rock and celebrity coverage, faces her biggest challenge yet: connecting with a mass audience.

WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT HER: “Amy is a quiet force in magazine journalism, but a force to be reckoned with. She has an eye for fashion and design like few we see coming into their own at this time,” said Charles Townsend, president and ceo of Condé Nast. Anna Wintour, editor in chief of Vogue, added, “Amy has a very original point of view. I’ve seen how well she’s managed people — she’s strong when she needs to be strong … and people in and out of the industry adore her.”

ANDREW ESSEX, Absolute, editor in chief

WHY: Essex was key in minding the shop at Details until Absolute Publishing’s editorial director Caroline Miller snagged him to edit the company’s high-profile new city start-up. With a targeted marketing strategy that guarantees a subscriber base with household incomes of $500,000 or greater; $12 million in capital to work with in the first year alone (from Absolute Publishing Inc., which already has successful city titles in Madrid, Marbella and Malaga, Spain), and a tentative launch date set for March, Absolute is one of next year’s most anticipated additions to the newsstand. Then again, New York, Time Out, The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine and The Village Voice already cover the supersaturated New York market on a weekly basis, meaning Essex may have trouble unearthing fresh material for a monthly.

This story first appeared in the October 15, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT HIM: “I think any launch is risky. But I don’t think the risk that Andrew is taking as he now goes to Absolute is much more significant than the risk that he took when he came to Details when we relaunched. Hopefully he won’t make the same mistakes I made early on in terms of letting the title go to my head. My advice for him would be to not pretend to know it all, because it didn’t work too well for me. That said, it’s not really in his nature,” said Dan Peres, editor in chief of Details. Ernest Renzulli, Absolute’s publisher, added, “He’s very articulate, well rounded. And he has a very high level of energy, which is extremely important in a start-up. He’s also got vision. He understands where we want this magazine to go.”

RICHARD CHRISTIANSEN, Suede, creative director

WHY: Love it or hate it, the font and pattern soup that is Suede has gotten more than a soupçon of attention in the design industry. By counterintuitively mixing wood grains, leopard spots and Pucci-esque prints, Christiansen has created some of the freshest — and most frenetic — pages to make it onto newsstands in years. And while the chaotic imagery may impress fellow designers, readers have yet to weigh in. If they can’t handle the paisleys on top of the plaids, Christiansen will undoubtedly have to reign Suede in.

WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT HIM: “He has a unique ability to take disparate elements and influences and marry them to serve the content in a new way. He understands when a new visual vocabulary is required, like it is for the Suede reader. In a ‘white space’ world he goes full on with pattern, color and layering and finds his edge in conceptualizing humour, whimsy and happy,” said Suede’s editor in chief, Suzanne Boyd.

SARAH BAILEY, Harper’s Bazaar, deputy editor in chief

WHY: Sarah Bailey set out to revive Harper’s Bazaar’s feature well in January. The result: Ben Affleck’s interview with the Kerry daughters in September, a story on Mayor Gavin Newsom of San Francisco that same month and Kenneth Cole’s Q&A with Teresa Heinz Kerry in the October issue were all picked up nationally, lending some much-needed buzz to the publication. Meanwhile, Brit ex-pat Sarah Bailey is quietly working the town to wrangle new writers and celebrity subjects, and by all accounts, is making headway.

WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT HER: “When I met her at a Chanel show last year, I knew instantly that she’d be a great asset. I love working with her, and I know she will continue to take New York by storm,” said Bazaar’s editor in chief, Glenda Bailey.

DIRK BARNETT, Premiere, art director

WHY: His redesign at Popular Science was largely responsible for the magazine winning its first-ever National Magazine Award last May (for general excellence in the1 million to 2 million circulation category). At Premiere since July, Barnett has been given the green light to freshen up the magazine by editor in chief Peter Herbst, who is no doubt keeping an eye on competitor Entertainment Weekly’s recent redesign. Though major changes at Premiere aren’t apparent just yet, Barnett is said to be more movie buff than Popular Science gadget geek.

WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT HIM: “Dirk Barnett has brought a freshness and inventiveness to every magazine he has worked for. In the short time he has been at Premiere, he has already opened up the magazine in surprising ways, and I know that, as the magazine evolves in 2005, he will make it more fun and eye-catching than ever,” said Herbst. Jack Kliger, president and ceo of Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S., referring to the magazine’s 46 percent increase in ad pages from February through September of this year, added, “Premiere has had a tremendous year, both in terms of editorial quality and advertising growth.”

DEBORAH NEEDLEMAN, Domino, editor in chief

WHY: First-time editor in chief Deborah Needleman is under the gun to translate the shopping format in an already-packed home market, and while the successes of Lucky and Cargo have virtually cemented shopping as a category, Condé Nast still has a lot riding on this launch. Fortunately, readers are now familiar with the genre. Unfortunately, home advertisers still have to be sold on the idea.

WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT HER: “I got to develop Lucky quietly. She’s creating this magazine very much under a microscope with high expectations,” said Kim France, editor in chief of Lucky. James Truman, Condé Nast’s editorial director, added, “We learned with Lucky and Cargo, you need a strong editor who has a consumer’s point of view. Kim not being a fashionista was important. And I think the fact that Deborah doesn’t camp out at the D&D Building will be helpful to Domino.”

LUKE HAYMAN, New York, design director

WHY: His subtle but inspired tweaks of New York magazine are spearheading a trend toward a “new cleanliness” or a “new minimalism,” according to notables in the design industry. Hayman, they say, heralds the return of “intelligent design,” where every inch of the page is purposefully thought through. Critics counter that the downplayed headlines and prominent photography don’t seem all that new. But clearly, the “Strategist” section — with its sleek single-item opener and playful arrangement of items on the following pages — proves that Hayman wields his own brand of cool.

WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT HIM: “Not only is Luke Hayman an accomplished and enormously talented designer, he is especially skilled at the art of telling stories and conveying information on the magazine page. He is both imaginative and clear. Luke’s taste and command of the medium will be felt on every page of New York magazine,” said Adam Moss, New York’s editor in chief.   

CLARE MCHUGH, In Style, editor, special issues

WHY: As a management training ground, In Style has proven fertile. Current managing editor Charla Lawhon was cultivated in house; former special issues editor Janice Min was successfully transplanted to the top spot at Us Weekly, and McHugh, a founding editor of Maxim and a veteran of the Time Inc. incubator, has the drive to reach the top of another masthead soon, having already served as editor of Rodale’s New Woman in the late Nineties.

WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT HER: “Clare always has the reader in mind. She is passionate about delivering stories that will appeal to them, and it shows on every page of the magazine,” said Lawhon. Publisher Lynette Harrison added, “Her gift is an uncanny ability to predict what a consumer might find slightly overwhelming — be it planning her wedding day, decorating her home or updating her hair color — and she demystifies it for them in her pages with style.”

ANDY WARD, GQ, executive editor

WHY: Landing him was a major coup for editor in chief Jim Nelson, who lured Ward, along with his stable of top-tier writers — including Wil Hylton and David Sedaris — to GQ from Esquire in April of last year. Newly promoted from features editor to executive editor, Ward finds himself taking on more responsibility at the magazine. And with deputy editor Michael Hainey turning up on the short list for every major number one or number two slot opening up these days, Nelson has two very key players to hold on to.

WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT HIM: “Andy is the greatest writer’s editor I’ve ever worked with and has great instincts. Writers respond to that by throwing him love, respect and great loyalty,” said Nelson.

WILL DANA, Rolling Stone, deputy managing editor

WHY: A handful of industry watchers believe he’s the heir apparent to Ed Needham at Rolling Stone. But what they don’t know is that Jann Wenner is still actively courting managing editor candidates outside the company. Dana, meanwhile, has developed a problematic reputation among writers. With Joe Levy reportedly lobbying hard for the job in house, if Levy rises up the ranks or Wenner taps someone from the outside, Dana could become either a casualty or a question mark.

WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT HIM: “He is the best features editor in the industry. He constantly spews out wonderful and brilliant ideas,” said Kent Brownridge, general manager of Wenner Media.

KERRY LAUERMAN, Salon, New York editorial director

WHY: Lauerman’s touch is evident in every section he’s overseen at salon.com. During the last presidential campaign, Lauerman trailblazed the site’s political coverage — when there was no Web template for Beltway commentary. More recently, he’s elevated Salon’s arts coverage, nurturing writers such as Heather Havrilesky (a contributor at New York) and Carina Chocano (now a film critic at The Los Angeles Times), expanding culture reporting on both coasts and, just this week, launching “The Big Idea,” a section that showcases environmentally sustainable innovations in fashion and design.

WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT HIM: “I’ve always found him to be really smart and literate and populist at the same time, which is a good combination. He has high values and good taste without being a snob,” said Maer Roshan, consulting editor at New York magazine.

JOHN KORPICS, Esquire, design director

WHY: After five years at the magazine, Korpics hasn’t become the least bit complacent. Instead, he’s still pushing to take visual risks at Esquire. This month marked the magazine’s first-ever photo issue, and reaction was such that editor in chief David Granger has decided to reprise the idea next fall. Oh yeah, there’s also that 2004 National Magazine Award for design….

WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT HIM: “Aside from being an astute editor, which is rare for designers, [and] aside from being a great idea man, what John brings to magazine design that virtually no one else does is a sense of humor. His design is accessible — even when it’s pushing boundaries — because it’s suffused with wit. It’s inviting and amusing even as it’s challenging,” said Granger.

LARRY HACKETT, People, executive editor

WHY: If managing editor Martha Nelson were to ever grow tired of the weekly pace and take a cushy editorial director post upstairs at Time Inc., those who know Hackett say he’d make a strong successor. But hey, relax, People. Nelson doesn’t seem to be going anywhere any time soon. And if she has her way, neither will Hackett.

WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT HIM: “I think he’s just where he ought to be,” said Nelson. “He has the whole skill set. He’s a strong idea guy, with a great news sense, a terrific line editor. He’s well connected within the industry. He has a good television personality and represents the magazine very well on air.”

ELIZABETH SPIERS, Mediabistro.com, editor in chief

WHY: After putting Gawker.com on the map with her compelling brand of sass, Spiers all but disappeared at New York magazine under Adam Moss’ no-snark muzzle. With her all-too-infrequent byline attached to stories about an FDNY high school in Brooklyn, George Soros’ blog or a firsthand account of trying out for “The Apprentice,” many in the industry were left longing for, well, her bite. As the newly appointed editor in chief of Mediabistro.com, the underused Spiers may have finally found a more hospitable home. And with publisher Kyle Crafton stroking her ego like a prized show dog (see below), she’s bound to resume performing her favorite tricks.

WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT HER: “As blogs become not just a hot format and really more of a way we present news and analysis — especially from a legitimized source — Elizabeth is going to be on the cutting edge of that transformation. In the way Inside.com tried to be a one-stop destination for media, or the way Romenesko tries to be now, we’re going to really capture the media in all its different facets,” said Crafton.