NEW YORK, United States — Chuck Townsend, the chairman of Condé Nast, has announced his retirement in a personal note to staff just over a year after he took up the position. Townsend was appointed to the role in September 2015, after stepping aside as the company’s chief executive officer and passing the reins to Bob Sauerberg.
“For over a decade, I’ve shared my thoughts with you at the close of the business year, but this particular moment is special to me, as after careful planning with the Newhouse family, I have decided to retire on December 31,” Townsend wrote in a memo. “The business world is hard at work reinventing itself. Every sector, every established company, is radically adjusting to the new economic order and the transformation to digitally driven connections with clients and consumers. Condé Nast is no exception,” he continued.
“But we’re not intimidated by the challenges, thanks to carefully planned leadership succession initiated several years ago, and the dedication of the organisation to preserving and carefully translating the incredibly powerful brands we own into contemporary assets.”
Indeed, the move comes at a time of sweeping change for Condé Nast, a print-led media giant trying to transform itself into a major digital player. The company is currently in the midst of a widespread restructuring, including a shakeup across its executive ranks and a fundamental reorganisation of the company's operations around five functional groups: business, editorial, research, technology and creative.
Once the reorganisation is complete, each group will work under a single leader and the changes have already been felt across several areas of the company, including Sauerberg's new executive committee, which now includes Anna Wintour, artistic director for Condé Nast; David Geithner, chief financial officer; Jim Norton, chief business officer and president of revenue; Dawn Ostroff, president of Condé Nast Entertainment; Fred Santarpia, chief digital officer; JoAnn Murray, chief human resources officer; and Cameron Blanchard, chief communications officer.
The changes are part of a much-needed shake-up to ensure the Condé Nast's longtime survival, especially as fast-growing competitors like Refinery29 and Vice continue to attract large digital audiences and Hearst Magazines forges ahead with its digital strategy.
Indeed, it's no secret that declining revenue from print advertising has put tremendous pressure on Condé Nast, forcing it to streamline its operations and reorganise its portfolio to refocus on its most valuable brands: Vogue, Vanity Fair, GQ, Wired and The New Yorker. The company has implemented a series of cost-cutting measures, including sharing more resources across brands and shuttering weaker titles.
Last year, the company closed Details magazine. Lucky was quietly folded just over a year after it was merged with the the troubled Los Angeles-based e-commerce start-up Beachmint. Meanwhile, Style.com was transformed into a global e-commerce site, which launched in the UK in September and is operated jointly by Condé Nast's US and international arms, although the venture has met with a lukewarm reception.
Employees across the organisation are said to be bracing for layoffs.