Reader’s Digest Reorganizes, Shuffles Execs

Scan_RGB.jpgLess than one month after announcing plans to enter Chapter 11 in order to reorganize its debt, the Reader’s Digest Association has renamed and reorganized its U.S. business operations and shuffled its top executives around.

Suzanne Grimes (right), currently president of Food & Entertaining at RDA, will now become president of a new group called “U.S. Affinities,” which will combine the Food & Entertaining group with a Home & Garden affinity. Alyce Alston, current president of Home & Garden and Health & Wellness, will take over a new division called “Emerging Businesses,” which will oversee the development of new businesses for the company.

The “Reader’s Digest Community” division, which focuses on “growing and nurturing the Reader’s Digest brand, magazine and related products,” will continue to be led by Eva Dillon and will remain outside of the affinity structure, RDA said.

As part of the reorganization, Neil Wertheimer, the editor of RDA’s Home & Garden and Health & Wellness divisions will now become vice president and editor-in-chief, of Emerging Businesses and Content Development.

Grimes, Alston and Dillon will all report to CEO Mary Berner, who said the affinity structure first adopted by the company in 2007 “has helped the company grow advertising market share and build customer communities, strengthening relations with both consumers and advertisers.” All three presidents came to RDA in 2007 and came by way of Conde Nast — Grimes was VP of Conde Nast Media Group, Alston worked as group publisher for W and Dillon served as VP and founding publisher of Cookie

The full release after the jump

Earlier: Reader’s Digest Plans To Restructure Debt Through Ch. 11

Suzanne Grimes to Head ‘US Affinities’
Alyce Alston to Head ‘Emerging Businesses’
Eva Dillon Continues to Head ‘Reader’s Digest Community’

PLEASANTVILLE, NY — September 10, 2009 — The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc. (RDA), today announced a series of changes to its United States business organization designed to accelerate growth and efficiency. Suzanne Grimes, currently President, Food & Entertaining, was named President of a new division called “U.S. Affinities” that will comprise her present division plus the Home & Garden affinity. Alyce Alston, currently President, Home & Garden and Health & Wellness, was named President, “Emerging Businesses,” a new division responsible for developing and launching new businesses throughout RDA. “Reader’s Digest Community,” a division focused on growing and nurturing the Reader’s Digest brand, magazine and related products, will continue to be led by Eva Dillon, President, apart from the affinity structure.

Mary G. Berner, President and Chief Executive Officer, said the changes are designed to build upon gains achieved since the company first adopted a U.S. affinity structure in 2007 that enabled it to leverage similar businesses, building multi-platorm communities of consumers around the content of leading brands. Berner said the structure has helped the company grow advertising market share and build customer communities, strengthening relations with both consumers and advertisers.

“These new moves are intended to enable us to bring our U.S. affinities closer together under one organization to drive growth and efficiency, as well as enhance collaboration, effectiveness and best practices among the various teams,” said Berner. “Going forward, a single organization will lead and support our U.S. affinity businesses, building around brands like, Every Day with Rachael Ray, Taste of Home, Birds & Blooms, and The Family Handyman. A single leadership team will also oversee advertising and the establishment of strong division-wide, customer-focused marketing programs.”

At the same time, Berner said that RDA plans to more aggressively pursue growth initiatives, thereby creating greater opportunity for new business development, hence the increased focus on this area.

“The new Emerging Businesses division led by Alyce Alston will create, test and grow new businesses from incubation to launch. This team — in keeping with our goal to create content that consumers receive how, when and in what form they want — will create content for use in all RDA channels and platforms,” Berner said. Neil Wertheimer, Editor, Home & Garden and Health & Wellness, becomes Vice President and Editor-in-Chief, Emerging Businesses and Content Development, reporting to Alston. Weekly Reader Publishing Group and the U.S. direct-mail books business will continue to report to her as well.

Reader’s Digest Community, led by Eva Dillon, President, will continue to nurture, grow and develop Reader’s Digest, the company’s flagship brand. The goal is to leverage the Reader’s Digest magazines, books, music and digital divisions to build new generations of customers around its unique ability to explain, inspire, engage and simplify. As previously announced, the division is continuing its transformation into an innovative multi-media brand by delivering content to users through expanded digital and print investments and the development of new mobile, video and multi-media applications. A full suite of products will be launched over the next year, branded “Reader’s Digest Version,” to capitalize on the brand’s unparalleled expertise in producing condensed, accessible and useful information. The division also announced plans to launch Best You, a multi-platform community for women 40+, in spring 2010.

Grimes has served as President, Food & Entertaining, since March 2007, responsible for brands including, Every Day with Rachael Ray and the Taste of Home portfolio of assets. She joined RDA from Conde Nast, where she was Senior Vice President of the Conde Nast Media Group (CNMG), responsible for corporate advertising sales across a portfolio of 30 consumer magazines and related digital businesses. The assets included Vogue, Vanity Fair, Gourmet, Bon Appetit and Conde Net, which included Epicurious and other interactive assets. Prior to joining CNMG, she was Vice President and Publisher of Glamour magazine, Vice President and Publisher of Allure magazine and the founding Publisher of Women’s Sports and Fitness. Prior to Conde Nast, she was Senior Vice President and Publisher of TV Guide, at News Corporation.

Alston joined RDA in April 2007 as President of Home & Garden and Health & Wellness. Alston and her teams have developed a strong content-development capability, creating, testing and launching new brands, platforms and business models including Purpose Driven Connection, Best You, Fresh Home, Dollar Savvy and Puzzles & Prizes. Prior to joining RDA, she was CEO of De Beers Diamond Jewellers US, Inc. Earlier, Alston was Group Publisher of W, W Jewelry, and Vitals magazines at Fairchild’s Conde Nast Publications. Prior to going to
Fairchild, Alston was the Publisher of O, The Oprah Magazine and Publisher of YM, and held posts at Allure, MCI/NewsCorp. Interactive and TV Guide.

Dillon joined RDA in April 2007 as President, Reader’s Digest Community, responsible for the flagship magazine, Reader’s Digest, Reader’s Digest Large Print edition, Reader’s Digest Trade Books division, Select Editions continuity books series, and Reader’s Digest Music. She joined RDA from Conde Nast, having served as Vice President and founding Publisher of Cookie magazine. Previously, she was Vice President, Publisher of Jane, Associate Publisher of Glamour and held posts at TV Guide, YM, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and The New Yorker.