On Tuesday, Richard Beckman, a 24-year-veteran of Condé Nast, announced that he is leaving Si Newhouse’s company to become CEO of Jimmy Finkelstein’s e5 Global Media, the new owner and publisher of the Hollywood Reporter, Billboard and Adweek.
I spoke with Beckman about his reasons for leaving, his first order of business at e5 (“drink from a firehose!”) and the entrepreneurial challenge that lies ahead.
Why did you decide to leave Condé Nast now? There are signs that things may be stabilizing after 2009.
Well you know, when opportunity knocks, you either take it or you don’t right? Anyone who known me knows that this is a great opportunity. I’ve known Jimmy Finkelstein for a long time. And when he was in talks to acquire the magazines, we talked about it, and he offered to bring me on as a partner in this business.
You can’t always control the timing of these things.
What did you say to Si Newhouse?
I thanked him for the opportunity. I’ve been at Condé Nast for 24 years — I’m 49 — that’s most of my adult life! I reiterated how I felt about him, and about the company. I wished him the best. Twenty-four years is a long time, you know? It was amicable.
How long is your new contract? How long of a commitment?
Oh, that’s something … I wouldn’t go there with you or anyone.
You earned the nickname “mad dog” at Condé Nast. How would you describe your leadership style?
You’d be better off asking the people who have worked for me, but through all the years I’ve been at Condé Nast, 24 years, I’ve had an incredibly loyal staff. As far as “mad dog” … you can’t always believe what you read.
What are your long-term plans for the e5’s magazine brands?
God knows! I can tell you that the goal is to make the music and entertainment and media brands important on multiplatforms, and turn it into a global business. If you knew anything about me, if anyone was going to write a description of a chance to do something, this would be it.
It’s also an opportunity to be more entrepreneurial, as opposed to being part of a big established company like Condé Nast.
What is your stance on paid content online?
We have a website at Fairchild – Women’s Wear Daily – that has been very successful in that regard. As we’ve seen, you have to produce the kind of content people are willing to pay for first before you can get people to pay for it. And the consumers are smart.
Do you have plans to make e5 sites paid?
I haven’t been there 10 minutes, Dylan! I can tell you more after I get there.
OK, what is your first order of business then?
Drink from a firehose! Anyone who goes into a new job like this has to be smart enough to know what he doesn’t know. You do a lot of listening in the beginning. That will be the challenge.
You launched Fashion Rocks — do you have any similar plans for e5 events?
Certainly, branded entertainment is part of the strategy moving forward. It won’t be Fashion Rocks, but …
Will Fashion Rocks ever return at Condé Nast?
Oh, you’d have to ask them.