Primedia unplugs Rogers' projects

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It hasn't been a month since Chairman-CEO Tom Rogers parted ways with Primedia over strategic differences with its board, but the company's rollback of his strategy is well underway.

Last week Primedia unplugged a pet project of Mr. Rogers, the Primedia Integrated Sales and Marketing unit (also known as Prism), which handled corporate ad sales. Its president, Darcy Miller, left May 9, and about seven other layoffs occurred as well. On May 8, the company split up its Media Central properties, resulting in the layoffs of about two dozen staffers.

The move placed its six trade magazines and related conferences under its Business Magazines and Media Group and placed its Simba and Paul Kagan newsletter groups under its Consumer Magazines and Media Group. (Executives familiar with Media Central pegged its annual revenues at around $20 million.) Among those laid off: Cable Neuhaus, the ex-Time Inc. editor brought in to edit Folio: less than a year ago.

Prism's functions will be pushed down to groups within its consumer titles, said David Ferm, president-CEO of Primedia's consumer properties.

Mr. Rogers, whose departure was announced on April 17, brought in Ms. Miller to oversee corporate sales efforts in 2001. She became one of Mr. Rogers' key business associates and also helped oversee Media Central. The integrated ad sell has sometimes proved problematic for multi-platform media companies and Prism did not meet with unanimous internal acclaim. But individuals familiar with the situation say the unit was tracking to add around $20 million in incremental revenue to Primedia's bottom line in '03, up about 60% from '02. (A spokesman said Prism would contribute "less than half" that.)

Focus on growth

Two other key lieutenants of Mr. Rogers, Linda Platzner, the former group publisher of its teen properties, and Editorial Director Elizabeth Crow are out as well.

Mr. Ferm said the company is focused "on growth of our core properties," which he defined as "our entire enthusiast group," especially its automotive and outdoor titles. While many still expect New York magazine to be sold, Mr. Ferm suggested, as Mr. Rogers had, that New York could be viewed as an enthusiast title for New Yorkers.

The moves come as more encouraging financial news emerges from Primedia. Last year it hit earnings targets that some had deemed impossible. In the first quarter of '03, earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization tripled to $43 million, although revenues were flat. Primedia is 60% owned by the New York investment firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.

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