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CONDÉ’S BIG MOVES: The changes keep coming at Condé Nast — the publisher on Monday revealed a series of reshuffles in its digital arm involving Lucky, Bon Appétit and one of its top executives.
The biggest change is the formation of The Lucky Group, a joint venture that will merge Lucky magazine with the e-commerce platform BeachMint. All of Lucky’s editorial and business teams are expected to join the newly spun-off company upon the close of the deal. Condé Nast’s artistic director Anna Wintour will serve as an adviser to the new venture. The Lucky Group will be led by BeachMint’s Josh Berman as chief executive officer; Lucky’s editor in chief Eva Chen as chief creative officer, and Gillian Gorman Round, the magazine’s general manager, as president.
“This move reflects our belief in the strength of the Lucky brand, voice and vision under Eva and Gillian’s leadership,” said Condé Nast president Bob Sauerberg. “By adding an e-commerce component to Lucky, we’re fulfilling the brand promise — to create the ultimate shopping resource and provide advertisers with the ability to truly integrate at every point within the customer journey.”
“The business plan is creating The Lucky Group to have three pillars of business: Lucky magazine continuing to grow with ad revenue and subscription — it’s a huge part of the business — maintaining the existing Beach properties, and possibly merging all into just two mints that will focus on all of the women’s products,” said Berman.
Berman said the deal was in development for over a year and it was only in the past four to five months that a business plan began to come together.
“I have a lot of friends at Condé and a year ago they wanted to invest more in e-commerce,” he said. “They asked to invest in our business and I asked about going deeper. We then looked at their magazines and saw just how perfect Lucky was in its overlap. It’s a magazine about shopping and we saw eye-to-eye.”
As for the magazine, Berman said it will still be an integral part of the company.
“Print will remain a huge killer and we still see Lucky as an important and viable brand for advertisement,” he said.
The new independent entity will launch in early 2015 with the e-commerce complementing Lucky’s aesthetic and voice. The hope is that consumers will readily shop with the new platform, with Lucky providing editorial content, and BeachMint providing commerce operations, customer service and technology.
Though e-commerce would become the company’s focus, Berman denied reports that Condé Nast was spinning off the brand because of reported low advertising revenues and decreasing newsstand sales. According to the Alliance for Audited Media, Lucky’s newsstand sales fell 15.8 percent in the first half to 84,255.
“I disagree completely with that,” he said. “We’ve been talking to them for about a year and looking at properties we’ve been impressed with. It was only Lucky that we saw as a fit — there was nothing better.”
Chen, who has been steadily raising Lucky magazine’s profile, and her own, in the past year or so since she was appointed its editor in chief, will be juggling her current duties alongside new ones as a merchandiser.
“I’ve never been a buyer before, but I’ll be overseeing everything from the buys of a Loeffler Randall shoe to that of an independent jewelry designer from Brooklyn,” she said. “It’s new for me but a year ago I never was an editor in chief either. I’m really excited about it.”
She insisted the new venture and her new duties would not affect the integrity or the editorial nature of Lucky. “It will still have the Lucky voice that our readers have come to love,” she said.
Chen, who will now report to Berman, said that Wintour’s advisory role will be one that is “active.”
“Anna has been an amazing resource and cheerleader and adviser to Lucky magazine,” she said. “This will be very similar. She’s been so supportive to our mission and will be very involved.”
Rounding out the team will be Round. The former Lancôme executive said that there would be changes, specifically to luckymag.com in early 2015, which will shift to become more advertiser-friendly. “We’re going to make it into the most integrated commerce buy that will be different from any other platform,” Round said.
With e-commerce as its focus, would print still be around?
“For me, print is essential,” she said. “It is the first person relationship that one has with a brand. It’s a physical touch point.”
And as for the reports of a dip in ad and single-copy sales over the year, Round said that looking at those numbers alone to define a magazine’s profitability was “naïve.” “We are in the best financial shape of our lives and that’s why we’re even able to make this announcement,” she said.
As other Condé Nast publications will be filling up the floors at One World Trade Center later this year, one will not be reserved for The Lucky Group. Round confirmed that the new company was currently seeking office spaces downtown.
While Lucky will be spun off, Condé Nast is seeing an important future in food. To become more of an aggressive player, it will be combining Bon Appétit and the Web site Epicurious’ digital advertising platforms. Pamela Drucker Mann, Bon Appétit’s vice president and publisher, will oversee a combined sales and marketing team following the departure of Epicurious general manager Carolyn Kremins.
“I’ve been trying to merge the two since I got here,” said Drucker Mann. “I can’t explain how many times in a meeting we’re having two conversations with this merger and how it would be easier for advertisers. From a marketing perspective, it’s seamless and easy and makes a lot of sense.”
Drucker Mann said that Bon Appétit and Epicurious’ combined audience of 12 million will be an easier sell: “It creates a food platform where you have scale in the digital space while also providing advertisers with compelling content.”
The two brands will also see a slight merging of editorial teams. Bon Appétit editor in chief Adam Rapoport will oversee both brands, becoming editorial director, with Epicurious editor in chief Nilou Motamed reporting to him.
Finally, Drew Schutte has been named executive vice president and publisher of Details. Schutte is a Condé Nast veteran who helped spearhead many of the group’s digital initiatives. No successor to Schutte has been named.