RDA Loses Top Execs

Reader’s Digest Association is losing two big-name hires that president/CEO Mary Berner made to help turn around the company.
 
The company announced today that Eva Dillon, a longtime pal and lieutenant of Berner’s, is stepping down by the end of the year. Dillon came on board shortly after Berner was brought on three years ago by new private-equity owners to turn around RDA. Since then, a combination of high debt and falling revenues sent the company into bankruptcy, from which it recently emerged.
 
Separately—but not part of the company’s announcement—Alyce Alston also is stepping down in the coming days, per an internal memo. A company spokesperson said she would pursue other opportunities, which he wouldn’t disclose.
 
Alston was brought on to run the company’s home and health titles. More recently, she’s been focusing on developing new-revenue streams like pastor Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Connection, a Christian-themed magazine that’s since folded.
 
Both worked with Berner during her days running Advance unit Fairchild Publications before the unit was absorbed by Condé Nast. The two were among Berner’s original top hires at RDA, along with Suzanne Grimes, also a Condé vet.
 
As president of all Reader’s Digest-branded products, Dillon tried to modernize the flagship title’s dusty image and improve its financial footing. During her three-year tenure, the magazine made a major rate base and frequency reduction and redesign that won it a National Magazine Award for General Excellence. In that time, a handful of RD publishers and associate publishers also left the company.
 
RD still faces challenges on the advertising front; this year through April, its pages declined 20 percent to 224, per the Mediaweek Monitor.
 
The company said Dillon is leaving to live full-time in Charleston, S.C., where she and her husband have a home. She will stay on an interim basis to oversee RD’s publishing operations until their successor is named.
 
Meanwhile, RDA named longtime digital exec Lisa Sharples to succeed Dillon as president of RD Community, reflecting the digital emphasis the company is putting on its flagship. Sharples will report to Berner for RD.
 
In an unusual reporting structure, Sharples also will continue as president of Allrecipes.com, RDA’s user-generated cooking site, reporting to division president Suzanne Grimes. While Dillon was based in New York, Sharples will stay in Seattle, where Allrecipes is based and where she lives with her family.