John Griffin, president of Rodale's magazine division, resigned last week. He had been the leading internal candidate for the company's soon-to-be vacant chief operating spot.
Those close to Mr. Griffin report he was frustrated that the Rodale family had decided to look outside the company for the top job.
"We had a very good run in the '90s, but now the time has come to RODALE from Page 1
move on," said the 51-year-old Mr. Griffin.
In October, Robert Teufel, president-chief operating officer, announced his decision to retire early.
Mr. Teufel, 63, originally planned to retire in 2002. However, given that the Rodale family, led by heir apparent and Vice Chairman Maria Rodale, began long-term planning for the next generation's management, Mr. Teufel decided it would be best to have a president in place who would be around to implement long-range plans.
TWO OUTSIDE CANDIDATES
Rodale's search has turned up two external candidates to succeed Mr. Teufel, according to those close to the search. Disney Publishing President Steven Murphy and David Steward, an ex-Martha Stewart Living and TV Guide executive, have had talks with the family.
Observers both inside and outside the company, however, report that Mr. Griffin was the clear favorite among employees, and expressed puzzlement at the family's decision to look outside.
"It's a classic case of the second generation taking over the reins of a company but not having any consideration or regard for the talent already there," one industry executive said.
Mr. Griffin, a longtime Rodale employee who has been president of the magazine division for 10 years, is well regarded in the industry for his strong grasp of circulation issues.
With the magazine industry facing both increased newsstand competition and a tough subscription acquisition climate, many wonder why Rodale wouldn't fight harder to keep him.
"With the number of dot-com companies out there looking for management talent, Emmaus, [Pa.]-based Rodale is a tough sell. Recruiting someone for that spot is not going to be easy," another industry executive said.
`MEN'S' ILL HEALTH
In October, Men's Health founding Editor in Chief Mike Lafavore left Rodale. In December, the publisher shut down New Woman and ordered the staff to clear out within a week. Just two weeks ago, Men's Health Publisher Jeff Morgan announced he was leaving to join an Internet start-up.
"Rodale, like any other company, is not immune to change," a spokesman said.
"What we're seeing is what is going on at every other media company. We're moving into the 21st century."
Mr. Griffin will remain through February. No successor will be named until a new chief operating officer is appointed.