The decision to shut the title was made last week, but Condé Nast president and chief executive officer Charles Townsend waited until Monday to relay the news to editor in chief Dominique Browning and her team. Browning, who has been at the title for 12 years, will leave the company. "It's very disappointing," she said, sounding emotional as she spoke to WWD Monday morning. "The editorial product was great. I had a great team. We took our circulation to 950,000 in 10 years. We had incredibly high renewal rates, so on the editorial side, we did a terrific job."
The future of House & Garden had been speculated about for years, especially after Condé Nast launched Domino in 2004 and then spun off Vogue Living as an annual title last year. But H&G staffers believed neither were a threat to the magazine. "Domino is good for House & Garden. The few things they do well, we do well also. Competing magazines within a company keeps everybody on their toes. It makes you aware of another audience," said H&G's executive editor, Elizabeth Pochoda, on Monday.
Rumors of H&G's demise reached a fever pitch when publisher Joe Lagani, who received the Turnaround of the Year award from Townsend at Condé Nast's annual publisher's meeting in Florida last winter, abruptly left the magazine in mid-October to join Glam.com. His departure, announced the day after H&G launched its flashy Design Week consumer event in New York, took both H&G staffers and Townsend by surprise. "Ad pages turned around, Joe was named [turnaround] of the year last year, and then...what happened next?" asked Pochoda. "I think he lost interest in the magazine."
Lagani said he told Townsend months ago that he wanted out. "I had told Chuck six months ago that I was interested in a new challenge. It was not a surprise," claimed Lagani. "I do acknowledge that I wanted a new challenge. But I put 110 percent of myself into that magazine while I was there. I was shocked that it was folded."