Maurie Perl, the longtime chief spokeswoman at Condé Nast, is hanging it up after 21 years at the company.
For 12 years, Perl built and oversaw the PR machine of the publishing company, reporting to parent Advance Publications Chairman Si Newhouse and then-Condé Nast CEO Steve Florio.
Times have changed at Condé Nast, and with it, Perl's influence. Florio died in 2007, and the aging Newhouse has faded from the picture. Perl's role shrank in 2010, when HR chief Jill Bright gained oversight for PR, and the publicists for the company's magazines like Glamour and GQ started reporting directly to their titles.
In 2011, Perl shifted to a new role as head of communications for the Condé Nast Entertainment Group, reporting to its head, Dawn Ostroff. Now, the company is eliminating Perl's position and handing off PR duties to Rubenstein Communications—an unusual move for a company that in recent years has handled most of its PR duties internally. Perl is expected to stay on until early February.
"Maurie has been a valued senior executive of our Company [sic] for over 20 years and we are sincerely appreciative of her many contributions," Bright wrote in an internal announcement.
The change comes as the entertainment group enters its second year. And while it's made many senior-level hires—most recently adding Robert Green as svp of creative-digital to help wring new revenue from the company’s brands—and while a big online video initiative is expected to kick off in the coming months, big financial payoff hasn’t come yet.
Perl's career included stints at E! Entertainment, ABC News, PBS, MTV and Nickelodeon as well as Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, where she wrangled big personalities like Tina Brown, Barbara Walters and Peter Jennings. During her tour of The New Yorker, she managed Brown's often controversial tenure, parlaying it into a high-level post that included working closely with the Newhouse family and on acquisitions and special projects in addition to overseeing the magazines' PR staffs.
“It’s been an extraordinary ride," Perl said.
A veteran of news PR, she remembered particularly getting coverage for the magazines' reportage in the days of Bill Clinton's first presidential campaign and later years.
"Tina and the team there were constantly breaking incredible news stories," she said. "I’m sitting there faxing, calling Ross Perot, talking to Gore on the phone, creating the 'hot list,' which was to get the copies of the magazine into the hands of the most important people. And there was great fun in corporate, when Jim Nelson, early in his days at GQ, asked if I would help when they did their Saddam Hussein story.”
News of Perl's departure was greeted with admiration from people who worked under her. One described her as tough, despite her petite stature.
"You could fit her in your pocket, but she’s someone you look up to," one said. "She would say, 'Go with your gut, follow your gut.' Sometimes she would say it in a motherly way, and sometimes while hanging up the phone.”