Company Refuses to Rule Out More Layoffs

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NEW YORK ( -- Rodale today named Steve Murphy as its CEO. Mr. Murphy replaces Ardath Rodale, who will retain the title of chairman.

The move makes Mr. Murphy, 47, the first non-family member to run the closely held publishing house. Mr. Murphy came to the company 18 months ago as president and chief operating officer, and he will retain the title of president.

"I promise to get here earlier in the morning," joked Mr. Murphy in a brief interview with

Given Rodale's 2001, the more hours he can put in the better.

Tough year for publisher
Through November,

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the company's overall ad pages were down 12.8%, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR. And the company, which derives substantial business from its direct-response book business, took another hit during the anthrax scares following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Mr. Murphy said that with new creative and other direct-response vehicles such as online, the company is forecasting direct-related sales to return to pre-Sept. 11 levels this year.

Last October, the company shuttered its teen-themed Men's Health offshoot MH-18 and laid off 160 staffers, or about 13% of its total workforce.

Mr. Murphy said that since arriving at Rodale, the company had taken $40 million out of its cost base.

He said his appointment "coincides with the company now being ready to move back into a creative and product-development mode."

Lay offs possible
But he refused to rule out further layoffs. While he said "the largest changes we have wanted to put forward, we have," Mr. Murphy conceded that "the environment is still very tough. ... Change is not something we will ever turn our back on, and with change may come personnel changes."

In a memo sent out today to Rodale staffers, Ms. Rodale, 72, who had been CEO since 1990, said that when the company first hired Mr Murphy, "we were looking for someone with very special personal characteristics -- someone with high energy, who was a real team player; someone who was kind and who valued the family."

As for 2001's major initiative from Rodale -- the lifestyle title Organic Style -- Mr. Murphy said that "like every new launch, we are watching it with immaculate closeness."

Organic Style is slated for 6 issues this year.

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