They shepherd the crème de la crème of Condé Nast’s glossy magazines, wielding untold influence and earning substantial salaries. They have enviable budgets and top-flight talent at their command, their opinions are solicited, and their every word heeded.
So why would Anna Wintour (Vogue), David Remnick (The New Yorker) and Graydon Carter (Vanity Fair) want to give all that up?
Maybe they don’t, now. But sooner or later, they’ll have to. Whether due to distractions—Carter’s restaurant obsession, Remnick’s book writing, Wintour’s philanthropic and political activities—aging out (Carter and Wintour are both 62), the desire for new challenges, or the needs of a new Condé Nast regime, the company will have to deal with succession issues at all three titles.
Si Newhouse, who was most responsible for nurturing his magazines for decades and grooming their editors in chief, won’t be the one handling the transitions. At 84, Newhouse has been fading from the picture. While there’s been no formal change of command, he’s been increasingly ceding power to Chuck Townsend, the CEO. Bob Sauerberg has grown into his role as president, and is seen by many as Townsend’s heir apparent. Si cousin Jonathan Newhouse, who runs the international business, is expected to become more involved in the U.S. operation.
But the more interesting guessing game will center on the editor spots, some of the most sought-after jobs in the media business. The company already has other editors in chief who are poised for higher-profile roles, plus senior ones who could be ready to step into a No. 1 position (though not necessarily at the same title; chief editors often don’t groom their successors). There are also, of course, some eligible outsiders. Here, a primer of top-tier talent who could fill their shoes.
Cindi Leive: As editor in chief of Glamour for the past decade—and the former editor of Self—Leive, 44, already presides over what’s one of the company’s most profitable titles. Glamour’s recent newsstand performance leaves something to be desired, but under her tenure, the magazine has risen to its highest circulation ever. Even though the magazine, with its aggressive cheeriness and inclusiveness (Leive recently made waves with a spread of plus-sized models), may be in some ways the anti-Vogue, many inside 4 Times Square see Leive as the favorite to succeed Wintour. Charismatic and charming, she’s bulked up Glamour’s fashion pages, and knows how to work the TV and celebrity angles.
“The next editor will have to be comfortable doing all media; there, Cindi is a role model,” says one admirer.
Jim Nelson: One name already making the rounds for Carter’s job is GQ editor-in-chief Nelson. The hand-picked successor to the legendary Art Cooper already has the requisite literary and celebrity chops. The 48-year-old Nelson has continued Cooper’s long-form journalistic tradition, but brought irreverence to the magazine.
“Jim is very similar to Graydon in that he loves the political editor’s letter,” says an acquaintance in the building. “He’s equally fascinated by pop culture.” Where he was weak, like fashion, he was a quick study. “He gave himself a crash course very quickly,” the person adds.
Adam Moss: The New York editor in chief would be on anyone’s short list. It’s hard to exaggerate Moss’s credentials: At a time when the future of weekly newsmagazines is in doubt, New York is recognized as one of the best reads in publishing, a place where long-form journalism, inventive service and beautiful design converge. He’d be able to do much of the same at Vanity Fair (which has used New York as a feeder, recently poaching its design director Chris Dixon and senior online editor Chris Rovzar). Under Moss, New York has collected 17 National Magazine Awards. It may be foremost a local read, but he’s been hiring national-focused writers like Frank Rich and Jonathan Chait, and through its website, the brand has built a national following. He’s also pushed the brand more aggressively into Hollywood. Moss may avoid the public spotlight, and is considered by some as “old” (he’s 54)—but given his other credentials, this hardly seems like a serious liability.
Daniel Zalewski: The young (41) and ambitious features director of The New Yorker is one of three deputies Remnick leans on to get the weekly out. Zalewski reportedly turned down The New York Times Magazine’s editorship last year. He edits heavy-hitters like Jane Mayer and George Packer, but also writes (as Remnick did before being named editor). It’s said Remnick considers him one of the few people who could step into his job if necessary.
James Bennet: Don’t count out The Atlantic’s editor in chief, however, when it comes to Remnick’s replacement. A career reporter when he became editor in chief in 2006, he’s widely credited with helping turn around the magazine. In the age of the celebrity editor, Bennet, 45, lets his magazine speak for itself. He’s known for his dedication to long-form journalism and ability to use the Web to advance ideas and conversations, which makes him a viable candidate.
Then there are editors inside and outside the company who could have a bright future there at other publications.
Adam Rapoport: First-time editor-in-chief Rapoport, at Bon Appétit, is considered a rising star. The 42-year-old belongs to the new breed of Condé Nast editors who adapts easily to today’s business mandate. A young, stylish man at a traditionally female-skewing magazine title, he’s broadened Bon App’s editorial content while making it more guy-friendly. With his fashion orientation, he shouldn’t be counted out for GQ, where he used to be style editor.
Amy Astley: Hand-picked by Wintour, Astley, 44, has been editor of Teen Vogue since its launch in 2003, where she’s brought upmarket sophistication to the teen category. The Wintour protégée (she’s even once copied her impeccable bob) worked as Vogue’s beauty director for nearly 10 years. She shouldn’t be ignored as a successor at another women’s glossy like W.
Jay Fielden: Now making a name for himself as editor at Hearst Magazines’ society glossy Town & Country, the 42-year-old Fielden was groomed at Condé Nast, having worked at various editorial jobs at The New Yorker and Vogue before being tapped to run its spin-off Men’s Vogue. After Men’s Vogue closed, he stayed on as a contributing editor at Vogue until January 2010 and was hired to take the reins at the Hearst title in March 2011. As one who knows how to edit for the affluent, he could even end up running Architectural Digest or Condé Nast Traveler.
Sarah Brown: The beauty director at Vogue wields serious clout in the beauty and fashion world; it’s the job that launched Astley to Teen Vogue. For that reason, Brown, 37, who has held the title for 10 years, could be bound for a publication like W. With more than 20,000 Twitter followers, she knows her way around social media, too.
Lauren Smith Brody: Along the same lines, Glamour has co-executive editor Brody, whose predecessor, Jill Herzig, used the job as a stepping- stone to the editor-in-chief role at Hearst’s Redbook. Previously, she worked on the now-defunct CosmoGirl. While many high-ranking editors leave the limelight to their bosses, Brody, 34, often represents the magazine in the press and at functions; she could be a choice to fill the top job some day.
Brandon Holley: The editor in chief of Lucky took over in September 2010, after a stint at Yahoo. Holley, 45, started the Lucky Style Collective, a blogger collaborative. Last year, Lucky created 100 online videos tied to each editorial page in the December issue. Previously, she edited the now-defunct ElleGirl and Jane. Her women’s service and Web background could make her a dark-horse candidate for Glamour.
Illustration: Gluekit; Remnick: David Levenson/Getty Images; Nelson: Mike Coppola/Getty Images; Holley: Mark Sullivan/WireImage;
Rapoport: Denise Truscello/WireImage; Brown: Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images for Whitney Museum; Carter: Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week;
Astley: Rabbani and Solimene Photography/Getty Images for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week; Jay Fielden: Simon Russell/Getty Images;
Wintour: Koki Nagahama/Getty Images for Michael Kors; Leive: Mike Coppola/Getty Images; Lauren Smith Brody - Tara Todras-Whitehill/patrickmcmullan;
Bennet: Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images; Moss: JIMI CELESTE/patrickmcmullan