In a surprise shake-up that was one of several staff shifts at Conde Nast Publications last week, Ms. Brown, 31, was replaced by Suzanne Grimes, who had been senior VP-publisher of News Corp.'s TV Guide.
The change underscores not only the industry debate about accepting tobacco ads, but also the competition for ad pages in the budding women's sports category.
'JUST TOO GREEN'
Conde Nast President-CEO Steven T. Florio said Ms. Brown was asked to resign primarily because she didn't have the experience needed to oversee a $40 million magazine launch. He denied a debate over tobacco advertising playing a role.
"She was just too green," he said.
One executive said Ms. Brown had sold less than 50 ad pages for the first issue, below internal projections. Another said the final launch number would've been higher, but that Ms. Brown was unable to "gauge launch numbers and couldn't project from there."
"It became apparent that her level of experience at the top was limited," this executive said.
But two people familiar with the situation said Ms. Brown expressed to Conde Nast executives a reluctance to accept tobacco advertising in a sports magazine. Even after acquiescing to corporate demands, she is said to have told at least one tobacco advertiser that while the company and the magazine welcomed its ads, she personally did not.
Ms. Brown could not be reached for comment last week.
Ms. Grimes, 38, said Conde Nast executives have "very high expectations" for the launch. The ad close for the first issue, due out in September, is July 18.
All Conde Nast titles accept tobacco advertising, including health-oriented Self. According to Publishers Information Bureau figures, Conde Nast titles carried a total of 522 pages of tobacco advertising lastyear, representing some $29 million in revenue.
Tobacco is also a lucrative source of business for sports magazines. Sports Illustrated carried 188 ad pages in the category last year, worth $35 million. Its new spinoff, Sports Illustrated Women/Sport, also accepts tobacco ads.
TV Guide carried 114.40 pages of tobacco ads, worth more than $16 million. Ms. Grimes is credited with increasing first-quarter ad pages for TV Guide, which were up 6% to 916 pages, making the title No. 2 in ad pages for all magazines in the period, behind PC Magazine.
Ms. Grimes is the second publisher to leave TV Guide for Conde Nast in the past 18 months. She became TV Guide's publisher when Mary Berner left in October 1995 to become publisher of Glamour.
TV Guide said it is talking to internal and external candidates and expects to name a replacement within two weeks.
Separately at Conde Nast, Joe Dolce resigned last week as editor of Details after learning the company was looking to replace him. The moves came as the young-men's magazine shifts its focus from a so-called "downtown" sensibility to work and career issues.
Conde Nast Editorial Director James Truman was closely overseeing the changes, which will begin to appear in the June issue in a package of articles headlined "Opportunity rocks."
"I guess I took a bullet," said Mr. Dolce, who is staying on to complete the July issue. No successor has been named.
In yet another, unrelated move, the associate publishers of Conde Nast's Bon Appetit and Conde Nast Traveler-Dan Lagani and Ilene Rapkin, respectively-are swapping jobs.