It was fun while it lasted, but the financial backers of Prometheus Media, formerly known as e5 Global Media, appear to be course correcting CEO Richard Beckman’s vision, as AdWeek sheds staffers it assembled under ousted editorial director Michael Wolff.
Mr. Beckman, the former “mad dog” of Condé Nast (known equally for his branding braggadocio and that time he bonked two women’s heads together in a tipsy effort to make them kiss) was named CEO of Prometheus in late 2010. His mandate was to reshape the trade publications acquired from Nielsen—Billboard, The Hollywood Reporter and AdWeek, most notably—as advertiser attracting “business-to-influencer” publications, as he put it to Forbes.
He collapsed BrandWeek and MediaWeek into AdWeek and made Mr. Wolff, the vitriolic Vanity Fair contributing editor and Rupert Murdoch biographer, its editorial director.
To the editors and reporters Mr. Wolff recruited, his arrival seemed an opportunity to take part in the transformation of a trade publication parallel to Janice Min’s revamp of The Hollywood Reporter. But according to insiders, Ms. Min was given the generous editorial budget of a loss leader, while AdWeek, which has long been unglamorously profitable, was expected to print money.
When Mr. Wolff’s editorial ambitions failed to attract a new class of advertisers in the first year, Mr. Beckman was moved to the company’s burgeoning “entertainment division,” and financial backer Jimmy Finkelstein took over day-to-day management. Editorial staff felt they had lost a key advocate, and surmised that Mr. Wolff’s vision had lost its main defender.
Adding to the friction, Mr. Wolff’s columns in AdWeek routinely took shots at News Corp., despite the fact that Guggenheim Partners, the majority investor in Prometheus, has close ties to the Murdoch clan.
Still, insiders said AdWeek staffers didn’t pay much attention in August when Keith Kelly first reported that Mr. Wolff was on his way out. Back in February, after all, the Post media columnist incorrectly reported that AdWeek was abandoning its annual Hot List. So why worry?
But after a second, similar report in mid-September, Mr. Wolff was openly telling other editors outside the company he was toast. When Prometheus brass failed to refute the rumors, Mr. Wolff’s recruits clamored for the exit too.
Since his departure, AdWeek has lost its managing editor, Hillary Frey, its deputy editor, Chip Bayers, two news editors, Alex Koppelman and Brian Braiker, and a reporter, Dylan Byers. All have left for jobs at higher-profile consumer outlets, including Yahoo, The New Yorker, The Guardian and Politico. Will Levith, the online editor who predated Mr. Wolff, left for the Daily Racing Form.
Mr. Wolff’s successor, executive editor James Cooper, came to AdWeek in 2008 with trade-heavy experience from Cablevision magazine and Broadcasting & Cable. Mr. Cooper did not return a request for comment, but sources say he is well-liked in the newsroom and more than equipped to run the new, old AdWeek.