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Creative and Management Shake-up at Condé Nast Gathers Pace

In a sweeping restructuring, the company will reorganise itself around five groups — business, editorial, research, technology and creative — each under one leader.
Condé Nast headquarters, New York | Source: Shutterstock
By
  • Lauren Sherman

NEW YORK, United States — And so it begins. Today, Condé Nast chief executive Bob Sauerberg sent a memo to employees vaguely outlining the next steps in what may be the greatest restructuring ever to take place at the company, set to fundamentally shift how the storied publishing house runs its business.

Moving forward, Condé Nast will be restructured around five groups — roughly categorised as business, editorial, research, technology and creative — with each group working under one leader. Last week, Sauerberg announced the appointment of Jim Norton as chief business officer, in charge of all revenue operations including sales, brand development and consumer marketing. Earlier today, Edward Cudahy was promoted to chief technology officer, responsible for software engineering teams and tech operations, reporting to chief digital officer Fred Santarpia. And Condé Nast artistic director and Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour has already begun restructuring editorial copy and research, as well as creative services. Vogue executive director of editorial and special projects, Christiane Mack, who has been promoted to head of content, strategy and operations, will run a consolidated copy and research team that will work across brands. Raul Martinez, Wintour's longtime right hand on the art side, has been promoted from corporate creative director to head of the creative group, where he'll lead editorial creative — art, design, photo — as well as business-side creative and the company's native advertising division 23 Stories. Condé Nast Entertainment — which is run independently from these other groups — will not be affected by these most recent changes.

We are working hard to evolve our company from a premium publishing company to a premium media company.

According to Sauerberg's note, Wintour and her team will complete the restructuring — which will require many employees to physically relocate so that they can sit with their groups — before the holidays and before 2017 budgets kick in. The majority of employees at individual brands have not yet been given any further information, although it is expected that there will be widespread layoffs. Some employees will remain dedicated to one brand, while many others will float across multiple brands, depending on their role. The structure, in many ways, more closely follows how Hearst has structured its editorial units, with dedicated teams leading the charge at individual brands and other employees working across brands. Condé Nast, too, has begun to share more resources across its brands in the past year, consolidating the business and editorial operations at Glamour and Self, and bringing both Vogue and Teen Vogue under one publisher.

The changes will also be felt in 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.

Today our premium content is being distributed across platforms and formats spanning print, digital, mobile, video, social and virtual reality, and as a result, we need to evolve our legacy culture and structure to reflect this new marketplace and be organised to deliver our content consistently across every platform," Sauerberg wrote. "In January, I spoke to you about the importance of acting as one company and breaking down the silos that prevent collaboration across our brands. In employee roundtables, group meetings and most recently, our employee survey, there is one constant theme. You want us to remove the barriers so you can work with and learn from your peers across the company."

Of course, the restructuring also allows the publisher to cut costs, which is part of why it hired consulting firm MediaLink — best known for helping traditional media companies capitalise on new technology opportunities — earlier this autumn. One of the risks of the move, however, is that individual brands could lose their distinct flavour, a criticism the company has faced since Wintour was promoted to artistic director in 2013.

These new, contemporary structures will make it easier to collaborate across edit, business and brand-to-brand and truly unleash the collective power of our incredible company.

Sauerberg, however, seems confident that the new structure is the right course. "We are working hard to evolve our company from a premium publishing company to a premium media company,"  he said. "We produce the best content and have the most talented and creative teams in the industry and together, there are no limits to what we can achieve. These new, contemporary structures will make it easier to collaborate across edit, business and brand-to-brand and truly unleash the collective power of our incredible company."

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