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AS THE WORLD TURNS: Connie Anne Phillips left Condé Nast in 2009, when she was the second-in-command publisher at Vogue, on the 12th floor of 4 Times Square. On Monday, Condé confirmed it was bringing her back, this time four floors higher, as vice president and publisher of Glamour, a little over a month after she left Time Inc.’s InStyle.
Phillips ran InStyle for four-and-a-half years, and left Time Inc. as the company, which counted her magazine as one of its most lucrative pillars, is undergoing a significant transition as it prepares to be spun off from parent company Time Warner. She is the most recent high-ranking executive to leave the company, preceded out the door by the man who’d initially recruited her, Paul Caine, who was chief revenue officer.
Her jump to a rival leaves InStyle, which thanks to her had been eating the competition’s lunch, vulnerable and represents a jolt in the field of fashion magazines, a category that has become even more competitive for advertising dollars in recent years.
To make way for Phillips, Bill Wackermann, an 18-year veteran of the company, is moving to Condé Nast Traveler in his same role, executive vice president and publishing director.
The appointments are effective July 8, just several days after the important September issues close business.
When she left Time Inc. on May 10, David Geithner, the head of the style and entertainment group, wrote to the rank and file that she was going to “take some time off before exploring new challenges.”
She did do some of that.
“I’ve been to Nantucket, spent some time with the family,” she said in an interview; Phillips’ father, Richie Phillips, recently died. “And I’ve been in Italy in the Amalfi Coast.”
She also managed to work out under a remarkably fast timetable, whatever legal formalities might have prevented a comeback to Condé, where she spent 14 years in various roles, including ultimately as associate publisher at Vogue working with group publisher Tom Florio.
Phillips was recruited by Caine in 2009 after she’d been denied the top job at Vogue, and she drove advertising pages to four years of consecutive growth. Phillips said she had a “fabulous” time at InStyle, but declined to comment on the reasons for her exit. She also declined to comment on the contractual obligations she had to honor before engaging in negotiations with a rival publisher. Time Inc. also declined further comment.
Phillips described Glamour, not Vogue, as the “job I’ve had my sights on since my beginning at Condé Nast 18 years ago. I think this brand empowers women on so many levels.”
She said it’s too early to know areas where the magazine could use improvement. In 2012, Glamour finished with four percent fewer ad pages than the year before, and is slightly down, about 2.3 percent, through July, according to Media Industry Newsletter, though September, which marks the 900th issue, is expected to perform well.
Editor in chief Cindi Leive gushed about her new publisher.
“There’s no one better regarded. There’s that intersecting circle of people who are liked and really respected, and really, there’s not a lot of people in that category,” she said. “I’m really just looking forward to her as an energetic partner and cooking up all kinds of ways to help Glamour grow.”
Before last week, there had been speculation at 4 Times Square that a reshuffling of the decks was in the works to make room for Phillips. When Traveler vice president and publisher Carolyn Kremins was reassigned to head up Epicurious.com last week, the course was cleared for a smooth transition.
For Wackermann, moving on to Traveler marks the end of an especially long tenure at a single magazine for a publisher.
He took control of the magazine in 2004 and lead it through four years of growth until the financial crisis hit. Last fall, he launched a new supplement aimed at Hispanic readers, Glam Belleza Latina.
“It’s going on 10 years. It’s an incredibly long amount of time. After a while you’re going to be up against your own record. We’ve broken every record in the company and at Glamour. It was time for me to take on a new challenge and time for new energy and ideas. When you’re at any place for too long it’s good to have new people come in with new ideas,” he said.
Wackermann’s portfolio has also changed over the years — at one point, he oversaw several magazines simultaneously, including Brides, Details and Bon Appétit. He had been looking to step back from the grind of such a big book as Glamour for a while — Jason Wagenheim, now publisher at Teen Vogue, was briefly named a publisher in 2011 — but those plans never materialized. Instead his portfolio was downsized — he lost control of Bon App in January 2012 after earlier ceding Brides and Details, and he finally was left in charge of the most important book on his watch.
Now he is returning to a smaller magazine where he logged two separate stints in the late Nineties, eventually rising to associate publisher.
“There’s nothing that feels ‘less than’ about it. It’s about where you are on your life stage. I like my gig. I can help that business grow and I get to work on travel, one of my passion points,” he said.
He said he had no immediate plans for Traveler, which finished 2012 with 5.5 percent fewer ad pages.
“I’m going to try to assess where the brand is because it’s been a while,” he said, adding he is drawing some inspiration from Middle Earth. “I’m always drawn to that quote from [J.R.R.] Tolkien, ‘Not all those who wander are lost.’ I want to create a cult sensibility about the brand and people who are brought together by this wanderlust.”