Florio's legacy

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With the announcement last week that Steve Florio was stepping aside at Conde Nast, the magazine industry loses one of its most high-profile and colorful leaders. Famous for his street-smart style and wiseguy attitude, Mr. Florio over his 10-year tenure as president-CEO brought into Conde Nast executives who were, like him, aggressive and determined salespeople. His blustery talk and bravado occasionally got him in hot water-most notably when he had to endure a scathing Fortune profile-but the publishers who worked for and with him credit the charismatic Mr. Florio with guiding Conde Nast to where it is today.

"The corporate culture under Steve was `anything is possible.' Steve encourages publishers to truly think big things and find a way to make it happen, and that was really transforming," said David Carey, VP-publisher of The New Yorker.

"Steve completely updated, renovated, upgraded and intensified the entire selling proposition at Conde Nast," said David Verklin, president of Carat North America. "He made that company a very feared and respected competitor, and that will be his legacy."

Mr. Florio regularly started his day at 5:30 a.m. to meet with Chairman S.I. Newhouse Jr., and often finished with a business dinner capped by an expensive cigar. But the decision for him to move on to a corporate position as vice chairman of Advance Magazine Group was made Dec. 30 at lunchtime, as Mr. Newhouse and he ate sandwiches in the Millennium Hotel across the street from 4 Times Square.

"After 10 years and his history of illness, this was an appropriate move to make," Mr. Newhouse said. "When Steve was appointed CEO we were a relatively small company and he retires at a time when it is a very dynamic company."

Mr. Florio, who underwent heart surgery several years ago and has had several minor health issues since then, insisted that health was not a factor but said he wanted a change of lifestyle.

Conde Nast had 13 titles when Mr. Florio took over, and with the launch in March of Cargo, will have 18 this year. Mr. Florio was hired at Conde Nast as the publisher of GQ, where he stayed for six years before moving to the weekly New Yorker as president. He was named president of Conde Nast in 1994, and added the CEO title in '96.

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