Hachette's current, longtime editorial director is Senior Executive-VP Jean-Louis Ginibres, who started with Filipacchi magazines in 1962 as editor in chief of French magazine Jazz. Following a stint at The Hollywood Reporter, Mr. Ginibres moved to the role of editorial director of Hachette in 1988.
The company painted the search as one seeking to fill unspecified positions under Mr. Ginibres, but executives contacted through the search process said the position was portrayed to them differently.
A company spokeswoman insisted Mr. Ginibres has "no plans to retire" but that "eventually he will." Mr. Ginibres, who is in his 60s, reportedly underwent coronary bypass surgery late last year.
Hachette CEO Jack Kliger, through a spokeswoman, said, "Jean-Louis is irreplaceable. We are looking to strengthen our overall editorial talent. Anyone we hire in those positions will be reporting to Jean-Louis."
However, one industry executive contacted in the search process, who insisted on anonymity, was told that the new hire would not be reporting to Mr. Ginibres. This executive was told Mr. Ginibres would be retiring.
Executives involved in the search were told that the new position would not have oversight over the company's international fashion title Elle-which Mr. Ginibres does oversee in his current position.
"They are making a huge sweep" of edit-side talent within the industry, said another top industry exec with knowledge of the search, "but the dollars they are throwing around are insufficient to attract them."
In a year driven by strong ad sales, Hachette's titles have had a flat year. Through September, the company's titles posted a 0.9% overall ad page gain, according to Publishers Information Bureau, compared to a 10% gain for the industry overall.
This year, HFM shuttered the women's title Mirabella, and then moved Editor in Chief Roberta Myers to Elle. In early December, the company named Michael Solomon to take over as editor of Premiere, the struggling monthly movie magazine. One of Mr. Kliger's first moves editorially after he joined HFM was to name Frank Lalli editor in chief of George. Both Premiere and George have posted ad page drops through November, of 18% and 40%, respectively.
Mr. Ginibres and the Battalia Winston executive heading the search did not return calls seeking comment.