Reader's Digest Deal Approved by Shareholders

What Will Be Berner's First Move?

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NEW YORK ( -- Shareholders in the Reader's Digest Association voted overwhelmingly this morning to approve the company's proposed $2.4 billion acquisition by Ripplewood Holdings, putting the deal on track to close this month.
Mary Berner will become presdient-CEO of Reader's Digest Association.
Mary Berner will become presdient-CEO of Reader's Digest Association. Credit: Scott Gries

The Berner effect?
But it remains unclear how Ripplewood's plan to install industry veteran Mary G. Berner as president-CEO will affect the ranks at Reader's Digest -- and across the competition.

Ms. Berner stepped down as Fairchild Publications CEO a year ago after its parent, Advance Publications, reorganized to make Fairchild a unit of Conde Nast Publications instead of its sibling.

Her return to publishing certainly suggests the approach of some high-stakes musical chairs. It was only a month into her tenure atop Fairchild, after all, that she reorganized the company, promoted or reassigned seven staffers and lured three executives over from Conde Nast.

Conde insiders, as a matter of fact, are already wondering whether she will approach any of her many loyalists there, people such as Glamour VP-Publisher Bill Wackermann, Conde Nast Senior VP-Corporate Sales Suzanne Grimes and Cookie VP-Publisher Eva Dillon.

Different cultures
But the differences between Reader's Digest Association and Conde Nast are probably big enough to send Ms. Berner looking elsewhere. Reader's Digest, based in Pleasantville, N.Y., is a publicly-traded global publisher and direct marketer with revenue of $2.4 billion for the 12 months ending June 30, 2006; Conde Nast, based in a lavish tower in Times Square, is a privately held publisher of high-end magazines such as Vogue and Vanity Fair.

Ms. Berner declined to comment; Ms. Dillon and Ms. Grimes could not be reached.

For his part, Mr. Wackermann said he wasn't going anywhere. "Anyone would be lucky to work with Mary," he said. "She is smart and strategic, and I know she will make Reader's Digest a success. As for me, my work is not done at Glamour and we are on our way to another record-breaking year."

In October, longtime Rodale exec Denise Favorule was named senior VP-group publishing director, for Reader's Digest.
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