CONDE NAST SAGA CONTINUES WITH CAST CHANGES: EIGHT EXECUTIVES SWITCH JOBS IN LATEST ROUND OF MUSICAL CHAIRS

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The public relations machine at Conde Nast Publications was in hyperdrive last week, announcing a series of management shifts at the famed publishing house.

By week's end, six executives had shifted jobs, and another two were hired from competing publications -- nearly all a backlash to the forced resignation of Exec VP Catherine Viscardi Johnston.

Ms. Viscardi Johnston, a close friend and longtime ally of Conde Nast President-CEO Steven T. Florio, was pushed out after a clash with mercurial Conde Nast Chairman S.I. Newhouse Jr.

Mr. Florio has been uncharacteristically silent on all the moves; he was out of the office for several days after Ms. Viscardi Johnston's departure and would not comment on last week's job shuffles. Mr. Newhouse also declined comment, directing calls to the public relations department.

As for the shuffles, on Nov. 1 came news that two well-regarded publishers were moving into corporate positions. Mitch Fox, 44, VP-publisher, Vanity Fair, was named senior VP-corporate sales, taking part of the job left vacant by Ms. Viscardi Johnston.

BERNER TAKES FAIRCHILD HELM

On the same day, Mary G. Berner, 40, publisher of Glamour, was given the plum post of president-CEO of Fairchild Publications, recently acquired by Conde Nast parent Advance Publications. Later that day, Deborah Fine, 39, publisher of Bride's and one-time colleague of Ms. Berner's, was moved back to Glamour as publisher.

On Nov. 2, Peter King Hunsinger, 43, publisher of Architectural Digest, was named VP-Publisher of Vanity Fair.

Robert Silverstone, 36, VP-advertising business manager, was named to the new position of VP-advertising services. Mr. Silverstone, who had reported to Ms. Viscardi Johnston, will now report directly to Mr. Florio. In his new role in corporate sales, Mr. Fox will not oversee the market research departments or the company's database operation as Ms. Viscardi Johnston did. Those departments now report directly to Mr. Florio.

On Nov. 3, Steven Binder, 37, associate publisher of Allure for just eight months, was named VP-corporate sales, reporting to Mr. Fox. Carlos Lamadrid, 35, associate publisher of Hearst Magazines' Town & Country, will take Mr. Binder's post at Allure.

At week's end, Amy Churgin, group publisher at Primedia, had accepted the job as publisher of Architectural Digest. A Primedia spokesman said no successor will be named. At presstime, the Bride's post was still vacant.

The executive shuffles occurred the same week Advance Publications closed the deal to acquire Fairchild Publications.

ANTICIPATED MOVES

One company executive noted the moves "were not unanticipated. It was not one of those sudden things." Indeed, Ms. Berner had been in discussions with top brass for some time about taking on the Fairchild post, according to insiders.

The appointment of Mr. Fox indicates Conde Nast wants corporate sales to be more focused on improving market share in key areas and move away from some of the sales tactics tried under Ms. Viscardi Johnston. While credited with some successes -- such as securing a two-year contract from Ford Motor Co. in a year when the automotive giant slashed its print commitments -- Ms. Viscardi Johnston had some missteps as well.

'CURRENCY' CRISIS

Her efforts included a personal finance supplement, Currency, that was mailed to select subscribers of Conde Nast's 17 magazines in April 1998. The addition of Currency to total 1998 ad page volume caused an industry-wide furor over how ad pages should be recorded at Publishers Information Bureau.

Several Conde Nast titles were down in ad pages this spring, and insiders said Mr. Newhouse grew tired of hearing Currency as the excuse. Earlier this year, Mr. Newhouse pulled the plug on several other Currency-like projects that were under way.

Ms. Viscardi Johnson was also vocal about Vogue Publisher Richard Beckman and the settlement the company paid to one of his staffers who claimed he broke her

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