On a recent Monday morning David Carey, group president of Condé Nast since early January, welcomed Off the Record to his spacious and spare 18th-floor corner office at 4 Times Square with his hand extended. “Want a smoothie?” he asked, gesturing to a table full of fruit and yogurt parfaits.
The auburn-haired Mr. Carey, 46, is of formidable height—6-foot-1—but has a dad’s slouched, somewhat recessive posture. Grabbing a plate of cantaloupe, he spoke about life in Scarsdale, which he shares with four kids—two pairs of fraternal, mixed-sex twins—and his wife, Lauri, who used to work in special events at the Metropolitan Opera but is now a homemaker. “It’s been fascinating to see all these high-rise towers going up in White Plains and they just opened a Ritz-Carlton, too,” he said, between chomps. “Not just a hotel. But beautiful residences. They have all these condos, and they sold out very quickly.”
For years, the publishing side of Condé Nast been without any identifiable personalities, but Mr. Carey, whom many speculate might succeed CEO Chuck Townsend, is quickly becoming its face: the quiet, contented face of a millennial Man in the Gray Flannel Suit with a slight spare tire around his middle, leaving the Beemer at the Metro-North station to chug into work. There’s also a Toyota Sienna, “the best one on the market,” in the garage back home—Mr. Carey’s choice for corporate car. “Alas,” he e-mailed OTR, “minivans are something I know about.” And then: a frowny-face emoticon.
Ron Galotti charging down Madison Avenue in a Ferrari this ain’t. Nor is it the beefy, cigar-chomping Steve Florio, who died on Dec. 27, 2007 of a heart attack. “Those larger than life, made-for-TV characters don’t really exist anymore,” said William Li, who succeeded Mr. Carey as publisher of Portfolio. “He is the Condé Nast that I know. If you look at the people who are running the company now, David is more in line with those people.”
“I always heard he was a good guy,” said Mr. Galotti, reached in Vermont, where he now leads the quiet life of a country squire. But “we didn’t know much of each other. He was a much different generation.”
“If Steve Florio embodies the Condé Nast of the late 80’s and the 90’s, David Carey certainly embodies, in the best sense, the Condé Nast of now,” said David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker, who worked with Mr. Carey on that publication for seven years. “Which is to say he’s 20 percent less flamboyant and 20 percent more involved in trying to figure out the future at a time of transformation.”
The Condé Nast of now is certainly less flamboyance, less glitz and glam and “edginess”—James Truman, currently co-founder of an eco-friendly circus, swanning opaque-faced about art shows and dating socialites, importing ideas from Japan and going on Buddhist retreats to Woodstock—than good old medium-gloss American domesticity, with new titles like Portfolio, ostensibly for the thoughtful stockbroker on his way home to Greenwich; the shelter magazine Domino, edited by Deborah Needleman (who lives in journalistic power-couple bliss with Slate’s Jacob Weisberg); the parenting title Cookie, edited by Pilar Guzman, who recently bragged in a Crain’s Forty Under 40 feature that she was home at 7:30 p.m. every night to tuck in her baby—and she’s married to Chris Mitchell, the publisher of Details. Yes, once-“edgy” Details!
Dare one venture that Condé Nast has become a little … Hearst-y?
Graydon Carter, the editor of Vanity Fair, which itself has acquired a sort of settled, establishment feel in recent years (watching the Oscars in bed with Chinese food, forsooth!), said by e-mail that Mr. Carey is the sort of publisher you “hate competing against because he’s so good.
“Also,” he added, “I like the fact that like me, he has four kids.”
During the January shake-up, which included the dismissal of several former Florio allies, Mr. Carey was appointed overseer of Golf Digest and Wired—businessman’s leisure magazines—while Steve’s younger brother Tom Florio, publisher of Vogue, took charge of its teen spin-off, and Glamour’s William Wackermann got the bridal titles. “This restructuring is a better contemporary reflection of how we actually do business,” Condé Nast’s spokeswoman, Maurie Perl, told The Times at the time.
But what is the contemporary reflection of Condé Nast?
Since Mr. Carey joined Condé Nast in 1995, the company has more than doubled in size. It bought Fairchild Publications in 1999 for $650 million and the Golf Digest group in 2001 for $350 million. The company currently publishes 26 titles with eight branded Web sites, and reportedly posted its fifth consecutive year of double-digit ad growth in 2007. Indeed, it’s become so big that owner Si Newhouse’s sleek skyscraper at 4 Times Square on 42nd Street, completed in 1999 by real estate developer Douglas Durst, apparently cannot contain it. Mr. Newhouse recently directed Mr. Durst to bid on a new site over the rail yards on the West Side of Manhattan, with an eye toward a new tower rising there by 2019.