Irreplaceable You?

These Condé Nast editors in chief won't be at their magazines forever. A (premature) look at who's in the wings

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.

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