When Jack Griffin began his tenure as CEO of Time Inc. less than six months ago, employees were optimistic. Coming in after a string of layoffs and reorganizations had killed morale at the company, Griffin was positive, he had a clear strategy and he talked of more open communication.
But soon, Griffin started to, in the words of one employee, “suck the life out of the place.” Recently, people had started to talk openly inside the company about how long he’d last. They got their answer on Thursday when Jeff Bewkes, CEO of Time Inc. parent Time Warner, announced that he’d fired Griffin.
Insiders pointed to problems with Griffin’s leadership style as the driving force behind his swift exit, saying that it had become a distraction. “His management style was starting to affect the business,” one person said. “He had a bad temper and was demeaning.”
Another view held that Time Inc. had a challenging first quarter, which might have set up a conflict between Bewkes and Griffin over the latter’s desire to expand the flagship Time magazine brand.
Griffin’s fall is especially quick considering the fanfare that surrounded him when he arrived there last summer. He had built a reputation as an industry golden boy for his earlier moves diversifying Meredith Corp.’s magazine revenue, an approach that was widely admired and emulated by other companies.
In an e-mail to Time Inc. employees that went out today, Bewkes made no attempt to spin Griffin’s departure. “I concluded that his leadership style and approach did not mesh with Time Inc. and Time Warner,” he wrote.
Bewkes said in the memo that until a permanent successor is named, the company would be run by an interim management committee made up of Howard Averill, Maurice Edelson and John Huey.
This may not be the end of the turmoil. Bewkes, after all, hired Griffin in the first place. Industry observers will now look to see if Bewkes suffers any consequences for that and to see if Time Inc., which has seen no end to reorganizations and management shake-ups in recent years, will keep the structure Griffin put in place.