Meredith Makes Big Sales Hire in Ad Slump

Shuffling comes in wake of Andy Sareyan's exit

Mass women’s brands publisher Meredith brought in Dick Porter in a new, supercharged sales role, a move that comes at a time when the company has seen ad sales soften as consumer packaged goods advertisers have sliced spending.

As evp and president of media sales, Porter will oversee print and digital as well as Meredith 360, the company’s client-focused sales arm. Porter most recently was CEO of Publishing Group of America; before that, he was publisher of Prevention, Reader’s Digest, and TV Guide.

Porter takes on some of the duties previously handled by Andy Sareyan, who departed recently as Meredith’s consumer brands president. Sareyan was close to Jack Griffin, who stepped down from running Meredith last year to take the helm at Time Inc., and Sareyan was seen as a potential heir to replace him. That job went to Tom Harty, however.

Porter has his work cut out for him: In the quarter ended March 31, Meredith's National Media Group reported lower ad revenue, circulation revenue, and operating profit. The company attributed the ad decline, of 11 percent, to weakness in food, drug and home furnishing advertising as well as comparisons with an especially strong year-ago quarter.

Along with Porter’s appointment, Harty, the National Media Group president, announced a series of other promotions and expanded duties, effective immediately.

Jim Carr and Carey Witmer were promoted to evp and president, broadening their editorial oversight. Carr is responsible for some of the company’s biggest brands: flagship Better Homes and Gardens, Family Circle, and Ladies’ Home Journal. Witmer’s oversight includes Parents and Meredith Hispanic Ventures.

Gayle Butler was promoted to evp and group creative content leader, giving her responsibility for content across the company. She continues as editor in chief of Better Homes and Gardens.

Liz Schimel was promoted to evp and chief digital officer, just seven months after she joined the company to head up its digital efforts.

Also, Lee Slattery moved up to vp, publisher of Family Circle from the same role at the smaller Fitness, recognizing that brand’s rapid advertising growth. Her replacement hasn’t been announced.