Does Florio’s Exit End an Era for Magazines?

With Vogue publisher Tom Florio (pictured) exiting Condé Nast, many are declaring the end of an era at the once-glitzy publishing empire.
The Florio name — along with longtime publisher Ron Galott — was once synonymous with the heyday of publishing, and Condé Nast epitomized that time, with its lavish expense accounts and tough negotiation stance with advertisers. Tom and his brother, Steve Florio, the former chief executive, were key to helping that reputation along, with a swashbuckling, sales-driven style of publishing. (Steve died in 2007 at age 58 of complications after a heart attack.)
But under current president and CEO Chuck Townsend, the company had begun adopting a more brass-tacks style. When the recession hit — causing the bedrock of luxury advertising to dry up — the company changed its ways, sharply cutting its expense accounts, closing titles and pushing harder into non-print ad revenue sources.
Florio, 54, had gradually been amassing more responsibility in recent years, adding oversight for the Condé Nast Traveler, Gourmet and Bon Appetit brands in addition to Vogue and Teen Vogue.
Questions about Florio’s future at the company rose in April, however, when he hired longtime rival Carol Smith from Hachette Filipacchi Media’s Elle to run the Condé Nast food brands. Some speculated that given Smith’s deep fashion experience at Elle, the publisher really meant to put her to use at the Vogue flagship. The current Vogue publisher, Susan Plagemann, also was a recent hire from the outside (Hearst).
Florio’s departure was announced today in an internal memo. In a phone interview, he said the decision to leave was his own and that he was pursuing a few options at “content-related” companies, which he wouldn’t specify.
“It really is as simple as, I’m very interested in running my own company,” he said. “I just wanted to put myself in a situation where I could run a company or a piece of a company and put myself in a leadership position.”
As for whether he had had ambitions to succeed Townsend, Florio said he wanted to do something else. “There’s no CEO job open at Condé Nast. I think Chuck’s doing a very good job.”
After Florio’s departure at the end of June, publishers of those brands will report to Townsend. While Florio will not be replaced, talk will inevitably turn to the subject of what executive shuffles may follow.