When Robert Sauerberg was President of Conde Nast, then CEO Chuck Townsend kinda took a back seat when it came to the day to day business of the company. When major reorgs or hires would happen, it was Bob Sauerberg who was out front and center issuing statements and guidance on behalf of the company. Everyone knew who the boss was and the boss was being the boss, letting his number two do the heavy lifting in public. Its a thing with some company CEOs where they keep a low profile which in return makes their profile even bigger. When Mr. Sauerberg was elevated to CEO of Conde Nast, he was very much still out front and center as he was when he was President. This was partly due to the new role and trying to set a new tone for the future of the company. It was also due to the fact that Chuck Townsend still sat above him as Chairman.
Fast forward to today, and Mr. Sauerberg has now slipped into that role where he is rarely seen (we haven’t seen him) and heard from in public. Ever since he recruited Jim Norton from AOL to serve as Chief Business Officer of Conde Nast Mr. Sauerberg has kinda vanished into the background allowing Mr. Norton to do all the heavy lifting in public as Mr. Townsend did with him but not completely.Mr. Norton who operates in the capacity of a Chief Operating Officer and is Mr. Sauerberg’s number two, has been the voice and face of the company as it navigates its way through an increasingly hostile digital environment. Since his arrival at Conde Nast, Mr. Norton has overseen some major changes at the company with almost no commentary from Mr. Sauerberg. It is Mr. Norton discussing the company’s digital readiness and future in public as he prepares to take the company through yet another restructuring.
With Norton’s arrival at Conde Nast a sense of unease immediately established itself throughout the workforce with some concerned that Norton may be in over his head. Some still suspect he is there to streamline everything until it can’t be streamlined anymore to allow a sale of the company giving the Newhouse family an out from the bleeding caused by the steady decline in print related revenues. Since his arrival there has also been some high profile departures with almost no statement from Mr. Sauerberg. Some major departures include Howard Mittman, Brendan Monaghan and more recently Brides editor in chief Keija Minor just before news broke that the company was again about to restructure its editorial and business operations. On top of all that, Conde Nast dumped some $100 million into Style.com in an effort to make it a fashion e-commerce juggernaut but the effort failed miserably and Style.com was shuttered and folded into Farfetch which Conde is now a minority stake holder. Even when the closure of Style.com was announced, there was no statement from Mr. Sauerberg. In multiple posts we’ve asked where in the world is Conde CEO Bob Sauerberg. Perhaps his public absence and statements on the happenings inside the company is helping to fuel the unease inside the company. Perhaps some staffers are feeling a little abandoned by their leader, a leader they’ve known for years and is used to hearing from.
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