Hearst Magazines' Michael Clinton had long been a fan of Men's Health publisher Jack Essig, but it took years to find the right offer to lure him over to the women's title-heavy Hearst.
The opportunity came with Hearst’s purchase of Hachette Filipacchi Media, including its car titles. On Wednesday, Essig was officially named senior vice president, publishing director, and chief revenue officer of Hearst’s Esquire and its newly formed Men’s Enthusiast Group, which includes Popular Mechanics, Car and Driver, and Road & Track. He’ll start July 25 and report to Clinton.
The final details were hammered out over the past few days while Clinton, Hearst Magazines' president of marketing and publishing director, was on vacation in Australia. “I was running a marathon and finishing up the final agreement with Jack when I was there,” he told Adweek.
The long-anticipated Esquire appointment could shake up the men’s category. Esquire has been stuck in second place behind Condé Nast’s GQ; in 2010, it collected 830 ad pages to GQ’s 1,310. Hearst, long dominated by women’s magazines like Good Housekeeping and Cosmopolitan, hopes that the creation of a men’s group will grow its reach and clout with advertisers.
“We had two brothers in a family of a lot of girls,” Clinton said. “Now, we have a much stronger footprint in the men’s marketplace. With the four magazines under Jack’s leadership, we’re going to be able to maximize a lot of great opportunities, in the automotive area, technology area, certain men’s products: grooming, fitness, some retail.”
Clinton said around 15 people expressed interest in the publishing job, but Essig was the best fit, given his background and track record at Men’s Health. “He was my first choice,” Clinton said.
Essig’s appointment fills the vacancy created when Kevin O'Malley was named senior vice president, publisher, and chief revenue officer of Hearst’s newly acquired Elle.
The news is the latest in a series of executive shuffles in the wake of Hearst's acquisition of Hachette Filipacchi Media and Lagardère's other non-French publishing assets. Essig also is one of the few outside appointments that Hearst has made under David Carey, who became president of Hearst Magazines a year ago.
Elsewhere, the integration continues. Clinton also said that as of July 1, the former Hachette titles are now part of Hearst’s corporate ad contracts and that there have already been a dozen deals involving pre-existing Hearst and ex-Hachette titles.
Essig’s defection is a loss for Rodale. Under Essig’s leadership, the Men’s Health and Women’s Health brands took off in print and established multicity athletic marketing events. Essig had been a fixture at Rodale for a decade, starting as ad director at Men’s Health and working his way up to publisher in 2005. He added oversight for Women’s Health in 2009. His successor is expected to be named in the next day or so.