Conde Nast Publications last week agreed to a seven-figure settlement with a former ad director for its chic fashion magazine to avert a lawsuit against Publisher Richard "Mad Dog" Beckman.
In June, Mr. Beckman allegedly butted Carol Matthews' head into another female staffer's at a sales meeting in an attempt to get the two to kiss -- and broke Ms. Matthew's nose. As part of the undisclosed settlement, Mr. Beckman was forced to apologize to Vogue staffers, many of whom were offended by the publisher's actions.
Mr. Beckman is now "seeking counseling," the company said. But few Conde Nast executives expect tangible change in the company's locker-room culture. Mr. Beckman and Ms. Matthews declined to comment.
Although many women have risen to prominence in the magazine business, it is still rife with testosterone-fueled, cliched sports metaphors, three executives at Conde Nast said. Conde Nast itself boasts more female publishers than any other time in its history, with 12 of its 17 titles headed by women.
"The women are pretty pissed," said one Conde Nast executive. "People hate boys clubs, and this is seen as [President-CEO Steve] Florio protecting one of his cronies. That's damaging to morale."
The low morale may turn out to be more expensive than the settlement Conde Nast awarded Ms. Matthews. The fallout from Mr. Beckman's well-reported raucous behavior could impact ad sales, and may make it difficult for the company to recruit new staffers, some of his fellow Conde Nast publishers believe.
"The talent pool in publishing, especially publishing that focuses on beauty and fashion, is largely women. Given that we are also facing a threat from the Internet -- which is pulling in all the young bucks, the ones who are smart and aggressive -- we don't need that kind of behavior scaring any more people away," said one of the publishers.
Others point to an incident several years ago during Mr. Beckman's tenure as publisher of Conde Nast Traveler when he and a member of his ad sales staff engaged in fisticuffs in the office. That staffer was soon dismissed.
Some Conde Nast insiders are disturbed by what is seen as favoritism for a publisher who gets results no matter what the cost.
"[Mr. Beckman] does put the numbers on the board, but you cannot punch your