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2010 March 22

The Queen is Gone…Long Live the Queen!

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Anna Wintour (center) in 1998 Anna Wintour (center) in 1998
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(NEW YORK) Don’t take all of this Patrick McCarthy/Stefano Tonchi action for granted---such colossal shake-ups are few and far between. In the last 25 years, The Daily could think of only four other instances of this magnitude---that will be accompanied by epic staff changes, tears, backroom negotiations and champagne toasts. Here’re our picks for the most memorable moves in publishing.

June 28, 1988: Anna Wintour takes her throne at Vogue
In arguably the most dramatic fashion editorial switch in history, Grace Mirabella found out about her dismissal through her late husband, Dr. William Cahan. Cahan came home early from work and happened to turn on Channel 4 nightly news and catch Liz Smith’s routine gossip dispatch. Smith reported that Wintour was going to replace Mirabella (who has been at her Vogue post for seventeen years at that point) by September 1. “Don’t ask me why Condé Nast would replace Mirabella,” said the doyenne gossip queen. “Vogue is one of the healthiest, heftiest magazines in the Condé Nast chain. You know if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, but they’re going to anyway.” Mirabella was naturally stunned after her husband phoned her seconds after seeing the report and minutes later Alex Liberman, Condé's editorial director, timidly confirmed the news. The next day, S. I. Newhouse worked out a healthy severance deal with the veteran. Wintour, who was at the time the head of House & Garden, left her office early the day the news broke. She became only the fifth boss in history of the fashion book.

July 1, 1992: Tina Brown switches floors to the New Yorker
It was a shocking day at Condé Nast, mainly because so many switches were made in the matter of hours---or was it minutes? Robert A. Gottlieb, the reigning editor of The New Yorker, “resigned," and 38-year-old Tina Brown took over his position. Moments later, a 42-year old Canadian Spy editor named Graydon Carter finally ascended to the publishing stratosphere. Here’s how it went down: Still loyal to legendary New Yorker editor William Shawn, the New Yorker staff was less than pleased with Gottlieb. Ad pages were down and the subscriptions were slightly sub-par, giving S. I. Newhouse a good enough reason to make the master move. Brown, meanwhile, was a Condé golden child of the moment having turned around Vanity Fair. But she felt she reached her limit at the magazine, and was even persued by Hollywood studios for more lucrative jobs.  Newhouse needed to please his popular protégé by giving her his favorite magazine to edit. Brown sincerely cried in the conference room when she finally announced her move---and then swiftly moved offices. "I do not know what she is going to do, but I know what she is not going to do," Newhouse said at the time. "She is not going to go monthly. She is not going to drop the cartoons. She is not going to have some version of Vanity Fair at The New Yorker."  In 1998, Brown departed 4 Times Square to launch Talk.

June 1, 2001: Glenda gets her dream job
This move was more notable for the predecessor than for replacement. After Kate Betts dramatically left Vogue’s #2 spot to edit Bazaar, media watchers were billing this as an ultimate “Anna vs. Kate” showdown. It wasn’t even close. Despite a famous 1999 redesign, neither ads nor newsstand sales materialized for Bazaar during her two-year tenure. Cathie Black did the obvious, promoting her star British import Glenda Bailey from Marie Claire to Hearst’s flagship fashion book. "While I adore Marie Claire, the editor-in-chief's position at Harper's Bazaar, with its esteemed fashion reputation, is a coveted post and a dream of mine,” said Bailey at the time. Brows were raised by the awkward appointment, but lowered when reminded of Bailey's stunningly successful run at Marie Claire. In 2003, Betts resurfaced at an editor-at-large at Time.

December 18, 2006: Zee in, Bensimon slowly out
Moments before Christmas in 2006, The Daily exclusively reported that Joe Zee was heading to Hachette, and Elle legend Gilles Bensimon's tenure at the mag was coming to an end. At the time, Robbie Myers was enjoying a high circ and plenty of ad revenue with the help of Bensimon, but she wanted to be at the top of her masthead. So she arranged a meeting with Zee, who had worked in virtually every Condé Nast fashion book--save Vogue. She swiftly made the editor and stylist her creative director, and he occupied his office just before the start of the Fall 2007 collections. “In his new role, Joe will build on Elle’s continued success and reputation by enhancing the magazine’s look and style,” said Myers in early 2007. Ironically enough, Carol Smith moved to the top of magazine’s editorial (!!) masthead in 2009, just above Myers. As the Elle world turns…

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