Condé Nast group president David Carey met with Chuck Townsend at 9 a.m. this morning to tell him he was replacing Cathie Black as president of Hearst magazines.
“Five minutes into the conversation today, he just got it,” said Mr. Carey in a phone interview with The Observer. (We wonder what those first five minutes looked like!)
Mr. Carey is currently spending his last week at Condé Nast. The details are still being ironed out, but he said he will likely be starting at Hearst next Tuesday, July 6.
“This is the plummest of all assignements for me,” he said. “Hearst operates entrepreneurially and when you see what they’re doing in terms of innovating and taking risks—but they have scale and resources at the same time—that is a very exciting thought for me.”
“It’s just a fantastic opportunity,” he continued. “It’s tailor-made for me.”
Conde Nast has gone through quite a leadership shake-up in recent months. Tom Florio announced he was leaving two weeks ago because he wanted to be a CEO of his own company and that wasn’t going to happen at Condé Nast. Richard Beckman left because he could become a CEO somewhere else. After Mr. Carey lost Portfolio magazine last year, he has been in charge of magazines like Wired and Golf Digest, and cooking up branding schemes for Condé Nast. It seemed like he either needed something more to do at that company, or something more to do elsewhere. Now he has a chance to run a magazine empire.
“It doesn’t say something about Condé Nast,” said Mr. Carey, about the recent departures. ”It says something about the individuals. These are executives who have been at the company for 15 to 25 years. You have a group of executives who are all around 50 and who have been well trained and are deeply entrenched in the industry and are ready to run their own shows.”
Mr. Carey said an important reason of why he left—other than it being a big career step—was the “people piece.” That is, he really likes the people over at Hearst already. He said that Hearst CEO Frank Bennack gave him his first gig as a publisher, and that both Hearst editorial director Ellen Levine and Hearst newspapers chief Steve Swartz are close friends.
“I know where I’m going, and it’s very comfortable,” he said.
Chuck Townsend, through a spokeswoman, said, “I have tremendous respect for David and we wish him well.”