A Tech Billionaire Ruined The New Republic – Can the New Guy Save It?

Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes sold the century-old magazine to Win McCormack

Last Updated: February 26, 2016 @ 4:56 PM

Facebook co-founder and billionaire Chris Hughes officially scrapped his plan to rebuild the century-old New Republic magazine this morning when he announced that he had sold it to Win McCormack, a publisher based in Portland, Oregon.

The Hughes-led New Republic debacle is finally over and the magazine that used to bill itself as the “in-flight magazine of Air Force One” is now in the hands of Hamilton Fish, whom McCormack named as the new publisher and editorial director.

McCormack, publisher of Tin House, is a seasoned publisher/journalist who published Oregon Magazine from 1976-1988 and has been an owner and treasurer of the MEDIAmerica publishing company since 1984. He’s involved in various other projects, from Military History Quarterly to Art + Auction magazine.

McCormack is also heavily involved in political activism, serving as chair of the Oregon Steering Committee for Gary Hart’s presidential campaign in 1984. He was a member of the Obama for President Oregon Finance Committee and an alternate delegate to the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver.

The New Republic’s new publisher and editorial director, Fish, used to oversee the Nation and the Washington Spectator. He will now be responsible for bringing the once-prominent liberal voice in Washington, D.C., back to relevance.

Fish has a deep background in politics that dates back generations. His great-great-grandfather was a congressman, New York governor and one of the first Republicans ever elected to the United States Senate. His great-grandfather, Hamilton Fish II, also became a congressman. And his grandfather was a Republican leader in the House of Representatives.

Fish’s father, Hamilton Fish IV, was also a Republican congressman from New York. It took five generations before tradition was broken, but Hamilton Fish V is not a politician — or a Republican. He’s a Democrat who published The Nation until 1985. He did throw his name in the hat for a few political positions, including running for a congressional seat, but was unsuccessful.

The Hughes era was disastrous. He bought the magazine in 2012 and wanted to turn it into a more digitally focused media operation. This decision led to mass staff resignations, including editor-in-chief Franklin Foer and venerable essayist Leon Wieseltier. Hughes also cut the number of issues to 10 per year from 20 and now operates out of New York City.

When Hughes finally put the magazine up for sale last month, he admitted to underestimating the “difficulty of transitioning an old and traditional institution into a digital media company in today’s quickly evolving climate.”

Prominent writers and editors such as Suzy Khimm, Jamil Smith and Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig have left the publication since Hughes announced it was for sale.

A New Republic spokeswoman told other publicans that McCormack and Fish only arrived in the office on Friday. “Their plan is to get acquainted with all of the staff and with the rhythms of the company before developing any long-term strategic decisions,” she said.

Meanwhile, fans of the New Republic took to Twitter to express their thoughts about today’s situation.