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Huey Takes Power at Time Inc. (Updated)

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Within days of Jack Griffin being fired as CEO of Time Inc., his name disappeared from its corporate Web site. The name that now sits atop the organizational chart is John Huey, the company’s editorial boss.
 
That topmost position may just be symbolic, but it speaks volumes about the power Huey has wielded at Time Inc. since he rose to become its sixth editor in chief in 2006. It’s rare for magazine companies, as opposed to magazine titles, to have editors in chief and rarer still for there to be one with Huey’s influence and independence. And now, he’s effectively running Time Inc.: Huey, along with Chief Financial Officer Howard Averill and General Counsel Maurice Edelson—glaringly, there is no representative from the advertising side—sits on an interim committee that is overseeing the company until a new CEO is named.
 
The official line from Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes is that the company cut short Griffin’s tenure, which ended after only six months, because his leadership style didn’t “mesh” with the company. The company claims the discontent was widespread and that top executives were threatening to leave, forcing Bewkes to act swiftly. But at the same time, plenty of other higher-ups at the company have expressed support for Griffin and had no inkling that his firing was imminent.
 
There are no reports of blowups between Huey and Griffin during Griffin’s brief reign, and Huey’s reps dismiss the idea that he was anything but positive toward his new boss. Indeed, other executives recount a series of business-as-usual meetings in the weeks leading up to Griffin’s ouster. What’s more, Griffin vowed to invest in Time magazine, one of the titles closest to Huey’s heart, and make it the most powerful news franchise out there. But Griffin, an outsider armed with a mandate to bring about change, also threatened to rattle the status quo that Huey and his fellow committee members thrived under. (Neither Huey nor Griffin would comment for this story.)
 
Much of the chatter where Huey is concerned has focused on Griffin’s order that all Time Inc. magazines run mastheads, a decision usually left up to the editors. But Huey, who has a reputation for acting autonomously and alienating business-side executives, may have had other reasons to be wary. According to knowledgeable sources, his contract is due to expire in a year. In December, longtime Time Inc. editor Martha Nelson was promoted to editorial director, No. 2 behind Huey, a move that some press reports suggested could be seen as setting the stage for her to eventually succeed the 62-year-old Huey. (The press accounts said it was Griffin who made the announcement, although Huey reps forcefully disputed those reports, pointing to an internal memo announcing the promotion from Huey himself.) That Griffin came from a women’s magazine company that doesn’t share Time Inc.’s strong editor in chief or heavyweight journalistic traditions could have sown the seeds for a potential culture clash; under Griffin, Meredith did away with its top editor position.
 

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