Meet the Future Leaders of the Magazine World
Soon the Top Publishers Will All Need New Chiefs; Here Are the Candidates
NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Ann S. Moore isn't leaving her post as Time Inc. Chairman-CEO until 2009, but the company has already started courting at least one possible successor: Susan Lyne, president-CEO of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia.
It's springtime for succession planning at the big magazine companies. The top executives at Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S. (Jack Kliger, 60), Conde Nast Publications (Chuck Townsend, 63) and Hearst Magazines (Cathie Black, 63) are all older than Ms. Moore, who turned 57 last week, and certainly advanced enough for prudent companies to look ahead. And while it's too early to call any races, each company is eyeing its stable of options.
Who will become magazines' next leadership class represents a fascinating question, not just because the grading and grooming have already begun -- making the process a decent spectator sport. Their makeup is also a big deal because, after a few years in which publishers have had to make many tough decisions, the next batch of CEOs will have to confront challenges the business probably can't even anticipate.
"One of our top priorities is succession planning," said a spokeswoman at Time Inc. "One of Ann's primary concerns is making sure there are a number of smart, competent, versatile and well-trained executives in the management ranks."
There are also well-trained executives outside the ranks -- even outside magazines -- to consider. Aside from Ms. Lyne, for example, it's easy to see the appeal of someone such as Beth Comstock, now president-integrated media at NBC Universal, to any magazine company trying to move definitively beyond the printed page. Then there are folks such as Dennis Publishing's Stephen Colvin, who launched Maxim just as multimedia strategies were exploding, giving him experience building multimedia brands from the ground up.
The publishers declined to discuss any contenders or forthcoming C-suite scenarios. Ms. Lyne, through a spokeswoman, would not confirm any overtures. But based on conversations with industry executives and partners, here's a look at likely contenders for the top slots at the publishing giants.
At Time Inc., the country's biggest magazine publisher, the clear heir apparent is John Squires, the company's only senior exec VP. But other executives, such as Exec VP Michael Klingensmith are well-regarded, too.
Barring any unforeseen developments, the decision will rest with Jeffrey L. Bewkes, Time Warner's president-chief operating officer and the expected successor to Chairman-CEO Richard D. Parsons in May 2008. Mr. Bewkes already had a hand in snatching Randy Falco from NBC Universal Television Group to run AOL last November. And Mr. Bewkes isn't necessarily going to honor the standing of an "heir apparent."
"Jeff Bewkes is going to put in a guy who he knows," said one longtime industry player, echoing the sentiment of several others.
Mr. Bewkes will probably consult with Patricia Fili-Krushel, Time Warner exec VP-administration, who helped with Mr. Falco's hire. Several people familiar with Ms. Fili-Krushel, former CEO of WebMD Health and ABC Television Network, said she may wind up a candidate herself. "She doesn't have magazine experience," one said, "but in today's multimedia world, I'm not sure it's necessary."
Mr. Kliger, Hachette's chairman-CEO, signed a five-year contract extension in early 2004, so he could leave his post as early as two years from now. And like Time Inc., Hachette has a leader-in-waiting in Philippe Guelton, exec VP-chief operating officer since April 2003.
In addition to being French, an asset with French parent Lagard?re, Mr. Guelton has seen the sort of international assignments that often suggest grooming. He moved to Japan in 1997 as VP-HFM Asia and managing director of Hachette Filipacchi Japan.
But Mr. Guelton was installed by Gerald de Roquemaurel, chairman of Hachette Filipacchi Medias, parent of the U.S. division. Mr. de Roquemaurel was removed last September amid disappointing results.
"I am not so sure that Philippe Guelton is a lock," said a former Hachette executive, suggesting the company has chosen a new path.
Hearst is probably the publisher whose future is hardest to make out. Cathleen P. Black, president of Hearst Magazines, said through a spokeswoman: "I absolutely love my role at Hearst and hope to be here for a very long time." The spokeswoman declined to discuss Ms. Black's contract.
But whenever she does depart, contenders for her post include Michael A. Clinton, the well-regarded exec VP-chief marketing officer and publishing director, and John P. Loughlin, exec VP-general manager. There's also a chance for Steven R. Swartz, exec VP at Hearst Newspapers since 2001. Not only is he familiar with Hearst Corp.'s upper management, he was founding editor of SmartMoney magazine in 1991 and became the title's CEO.
When Charles H. Townsend succeeded Steven T. Florio as Conde Nast president-CEO in January 2004, he committed to at least five years and probably 10. He's had a good run so far, but his minimum stay is up in 2009 -- and the high-power, high-gloss private publisher has plenty of candidates ready to step up.
They include David Carey, president of Conde Nast Business Group; Richard Beckman, president of Conde Nast Media Group; John Bellando, chief operating officer and former chief financial officer; and Mitchell B. Fox, group president-publishing director.
Several insiders and observers rated Mr. Carey as the odds-on favorite, particularly if Portfolio magazine is a success. Mr. Carey also commands respect within the company and among other publishers, too, which matters because Conde Nast wants to retain the talent it's got.
But another person wondered whether Mr. Carey's talent for detail might complicate his ability to think big. "Every time something is broken, they give it to Richard to fix," this person said. "When a publisher is struggling, they assign Richard to work with him. ... He is their go-to, not just for obvious, highly visible rainmaking, but for problems, too."
Others knocked any Beckman ascent, calling him a polarizing figure within the company. "Beckman is the Hillary Clinton," one said. "Too many negatives."
Mr. Fox scores low on inspiring loyalty but resembles Mr. Townsend, who wasn't very well-known at the company before he got the top job. "Mitch doesn't do politics that much or that well," an observer said. "But remember, Chuck sat in the background for years."