"There are no publishers here who should be concerned about their jobs," Mr. Townsend told Watercooler today, in his most direct response yet to the rumors that erupted back in April -- and have since refused to die. "I plan no changes, see no need for changes and am very content with the position that we're in."
The April report in WWD cited "mounting speculation" that a looming publishing shuffle would unseat Vanity Fair VP-Publisher Alan Katz, shift GQ VP-Publisher Peter Hunsinger into that spot and perhaps move Gourmet VP-Publisher Giulio Capua to GQ, opening up a job for Lance Ford, who had been VP-Publisher at the now-defunct Cargo.
The most recent speculation to reach Watercooler from within the company suggested that Thomas A. Florio would get a group president's title, much like former New Yorker Publisher David Carey received when he was tapped to run the business group. Mr. Townsend pointed out that Mr. Florio is already VP-publishing director at Vogue and publishing director at Men's Vogue. He will also be publishing director at the planned Vogue Living this November, although the company considers that title likely to be an annual effort and not a full-fledged launch.
"Tom has a unique responsibility in the company," Mr. Townsend said. "He's a publishing director of more than one title. We are certainly appreciative of Tom's broad talents and I think that we have appropriately recognized them."
The initial report sparked plenty more rumors and left a lingering question mark over the company's structure. Unnamed publishing-side sources were cited as saying they'd heard that the changes would go down once Mr. Townsend returned from vacation. But he came back and nothing happened. Then chatter was a Conde shuffle would occur after Chairman Samuel I. (Si) Newhouse Jr. got back to town.
"Every time I travel, or Si travels, somebody assumes it's to plot," Mr. Townsend said. "I was relaxing."
As for Vanity Fair, whose ad pages fell in the first half of the year, things are looking up. A spokeswoman said ad pages were flat in July and look very positive for August. Newsstand sales, moreover, are tracking to climb 18% in the first half -- which would mean the best half of single-copy sales in the magazine's history -- and that's coming off a second half last year that itself showed a 32% newsstand gain.
"I understand the circumstances at Vanity Fair better than anybody," Mr. Townsend said, "but those of us here who need to know understand where we come from and where we're going. And we're perfectly content with the job that Alan is doing. He's turned the big ship around as we head into the fall and that's exactly what we asked him to do."