NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Conde Nast CEO Charles Townsend told staffers at the Fairchild division he had made Richard Beckman their new president-CEO because Fairchild was in trouble and needed a "tiger," according to Fairchild staffers.
"He started out saying that our backs are against the wall as a company, the Fairchild Fashion Group," a staffer said. "He said we paid dearly for this group not so long ago and then sort of admitted that they hadn't turned it into the leading B-to-B group that they wanted."
"He just felt that at a time like this, in his experience, he had to put his 'best asset' in the position."
Conde's parent, Advance, paid Walt Disney about $650 million for Fairchild in 1999 after a bidding war with Hearst, acquiring a portfolio of business-to-business titles including Women's Wear Daily and Daily News Record as well as consumer magazines such as Details, Jane and W. Conde Nast closed Jane in July 2007 and shuttered DNR last November. W is now considered part of Conde Nast and will not report to Mr. Beckman.
Mr. Townsend addressed Fairchild staff yesterday during a visit to its offices on Third Avenue, about a mile from Conde Nast headquarters in Times Square. Mr. Beckman's arrival means an exit for Dan Lagani, who had been president of the Fairchild Fashion Group.
Conde Nast seems to have been determined to move Mr. Beckman from the Conde Nast Media Group, which has canceled or suspended big programs including Fashion Rocks, a Beckman creation. The group, with a staff of about 135 people in departments including creative services, production, marketing and sales, cut staffers earlier this month.
The company had considered assigning him to run the Parade newspaper supplement, which would have been a poor fit for his style and for his experience in fashion, retail and travel.
One company executive said it just seemed like Mr. Beckman had run his course at the media group, which he helped create as Conde's chief marketing officer, becoming president of the newly christened group in 2004. "He had a very long run there," the executive said. "They switched it out."
"Things were starting to go backward," he added.
Buyers applaud Cona
Media buyers welcomed the ascension of Lou Cona, who had been Mr. Beckman's No. 2 at the media group. Mr. Cona isn't getting the title of president, but he is assuming Mr. Beckman's duties.
"Richard had burned a lot of bridges, both internally with publishers and subordinates, and with clients," one buyer said. "Lou is very approachable and accessible. He's just what the Conde Nast Media Group needs at this time."
A company spokeswoman reiterated today that Mr. Townsend tapped Mr. Beckman for Fairchild to make the most of the division. "This is an underutilized business," she said. "He's putting his best and strongest performer there to take a look at the business and take a look at how to grow it."
"Every place Richard has been, he's grown the profile and he's increased the revenue. That's what Chuck is looking for Richard to do."