Lipman’s Legions Leery in Portfolio’s Second Sortie

Or there was the editorial meeting this past spring when the idea was pitched to report out an up-to-date version of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, the classic James Agee and Walker Evans book about sharecroppers in the Depression commissioned by Fortune in 1936.

“I don’t know it, and I don’t like it,” Ms. Lipman said, according to two staffers.

The firing of Jim Impoco caught many people off guard. And since Portfolio has declined to specify the reason for his dismissal, several theories have made the rounds on the 17th floor of the Condé Nast building.

Even supporters of Mr. Impoco will use words like “pugnacious,” in describing him, and one staffer said that he had been “sparring publicly” with Ms. Lipman for some time.

In a recent editorial meeting, Mr. Impoco harshly challenged her, belittling one of her story ideas as “breathless.” As one staffer said: “I think the people who are not the greatest fans of the boss were taken aback by that.”

And few fail to mention Mr. Impoco’s support of Kurt Eichenwald, the embattled investigative reporter who spent two decades at The New York Times before joining Portfolio a year ago. Mr. Eichenwald continues to court controversy over a December 2005 Times exposé on online child pornography. Two days after reports surfaced that he had paid more money than he’d previously admitted to a story subject, he resigned from Portfolio. (Officially, the magazine has still declined to comment on The Observer’s Aug. 10 report of the resignation.)

“I think that advertisers see the commitment that Condé Nast is making,” said publisher David Carey. “They are used to reading rumors and innuendo about Condé Nast.”

Mr. Carey added that attrition rates at Portfolio are in the “low single digits,” and perhaps five times less than at many competing magazines.

But whatever the reasons, good or bad, the firing of Mr. Impoco is not winning Ms. Lipman points with her staff.

“It seems like bad judgment, and just more capriciousness,” said a staffer. “There are people who are concerned that they are the next target.”

And another: “She was completely in control of the timing of it. Why not wait three weeks?”

But in three weeks it will be time to close the October issue.

“We’re delighted to be going monthly so that we can continue to make and break news for business readers,” Ms. Lipman wrote in her e-mail.

Lipman’s Legions Leery in Portfolio’s Second Sortie