'Taking the Walls Down' Between Three Magazine Groups

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NEW YORK ( -- Charles H. "Chuck" Townsend, the president-CEO of Conde Nast Publications of less than four months, is wasting little time remaking the nation's second-largest magazine company.

Yesterday, the company combined the Conde

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Nast Bridal Group, which publishes Modern Bride, Bride's and a host of related regional publications, with Fairchild Publications' Elegant Bride into the newly created Fairchild Bridal Group. That group will report to Mary Berner, president-CEO of Fairchild.

Three magazine divisions
Mr. Townsend said that "we are taking the walls down" between the three units of the Advance Magazine Group, which are Conde Nast, Fairchild and the Golf Digest Cos.

"This is looking at running our businesses as efficiently and effectively as we possibly can" without considering "hoarding revenue or hoarding dollars or hoarding talent."

Mr. Townsend's experience suggested he would take such an approach. Prior to being named to his current role (he succeeded Steven T. Florio), Mr. Townsend served as chief operating officer of the Advance Magazine Group, a title he retains. In that capacity, he oversaw the merging of back-office functions across all Advance units. By contrast, Mr. Florio, during whose tenure both Conde Nast and Advance substantially remade themselves through several key magazine launches and acquisitions, came up through the ranks at Conde Nast.

New office location
Fairchild is expected to spend a few months finalizing plans for the new unit, but no layoffs are currently expected. All publishers and editors in chief will remain with their respective titles. The Conde Nast Bridal Group will vacate Conde Nast's glitzy Times Square headquarters this fall to move with the rest of Fairchild into new offices on Fifth Avenue.

The move "shows the days of [separation] between the divisions are coming to a close, which is probably a good idea," a company executive said.

Nina Lawrence, vice president and publisher of both Conde Nast Bridal Group titles, referred a call seeking comment to Ms. Berner or Mr. Townsend. A company insider said that within the Bridal Group some sort of centralizing move was expected, but the move to Fairchild was not.

Fairchild's management talent
Mr. Townsend dismissed this view. "Any logical business view would say that [Fairchild] is where you've got the management talent with the time to pay attention to something as complex as putting a huge bridal group together." Before today's move, Conde Nast published 18 consumer titles and Fairchild published four consumer titles and a host of trade publications.

"There was a strong feeling we should put all of the bridal [properties] under one roof. Then it became a question of where would the group best thrive," said Ms. Berner.

Personnel moves
In past years, it was unusual for Conde Nast to reach beyond its titles to name publishers, but the Fairchild Bridal Group moves came one day after Advance shuffled publishers across all of its divisions. Beth Brenner, vice president and publisher of Self, moved over to helm the launch of an upcoming home-themed offshoot of Lucky magazine, which is due out next year, and Kim Anderson Kelleher, the vice president and publisher of Golf for Women was named as her replacement. In turn, Ms. Kelleher was replaced by Lee Slattery, who was formerly the associate publisher of Glamour.

In April, Glamour's publisher, Suzanne Grimes, was asked to leave her post. She was replaced by Bill Wackermann, who was publisher of Fairchild's Details. Chris Mitchell, formerly the associate publisher of Conde Nast's New Yorker, replaced Mr. Wackermann.

When those moves first occurred, rumors of further changes swept the building, but Mr. Townsend was quick to bat one down -- one that a new layer of positions along the lines of a group publisher might be layered onto existing company management.

"Absolutely not. We don't need it," Mr. Townsend said. Asked if more moves like the Fairchild Bridal Group were pending, Mr. Townsend said, "I expect us to act more and more as Advance Magazine Group. [But] do I have more of these shifts up my sleeve at the moment? No."

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