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N.Y. Observer Editor-in-Chief, President to Depart

Editor Elizabeth Spiers announced she will step down at the end of the month, and Christopher Barnes, the head of the publication's business side, is exiting, too

The editor-in-chief and the president of the New York Observer are stepping down, the publication announced Thursday.

Editor Elizabeth Spiers announced that she will start a new company when she leaves her full-time post in August.

Christopher Barnes, the president of the paper, is also stepping down after three years. The timing of that departure was not immediately clear.

Spiers, a respected figure in New York's online media scene, will stay on Observer Media Group's payroll as a part-time consultant on the business side until November, helping develop a creative services team.

"I was working on a startup idea when [Observer Media Group owner] Jared [Kushner] approached me and it's kind of been in the back of my head as we've been looking at what's happening in media right now and how business models are changing," she told Hamilton Nolan at Gawker, the site she helped found. "And I did what I was brought in to do here, which was turn the thing around and stabilize it, so now it's a question of where the company goes next."

"There is no timeline for Christopher's departure, but he will continue to run the business and work closely with me to find the right person to help us take this organization to the next level," Kushner (pictured), a real estate heir and son-in-law to Donald Trump, wrote in an internal memo obtained by New York media blogger Nick Rizzo.

 In a public announcement, executive editor Aaron Gell was named the new editor-in-chief, leading the weekly paper, Observer.com and its stable of other websites. However, the Kushner's memo refers to Gell as the interim editor.

Spiers, a veteran of the New York blogosphere, was considered a risky choice for the paper when she was hired. Politico's Dylan Byers noted that she had a long history of early departures and some colleagues predicted the Observer's fourth editor in as many years would not last more than a year.

She lasted 18 months.

Barnes, meanwhile, was known as a controversial figure at the paper, blamed by both business and editorial employees for compromising the Observer's editorial integrity for ad sales.

Kyle Pope, Spiers' predecessor, infamously referred to the paper as a "shitshow" when he departed.

Before joining the Observer, Spiers served as the founding editor of Gawker, where she established the site's snark-laced style and sensibility. 

After a brief stint as the top editor of Mediabistro, she started Dead Horse Media, publishing DealBreaker, a Wall Street gossip site, AboveTheLaw and Fashionista.

Much like her former partner, Gawker's Nick Denton — known as the "gossip merchant" — Spiers keenly honed a niche for each of her sites, channeling specific content on each one. Gawker Media publishes eight sites, including car-oriented Jalopnik and feminist Jezebel.

Spiers arrived at the Observer in 2011 and reinvigorated the nearly quarter-century old newspaper, expanding its brand to four more sub-entities — tech site BetaBeat, Politicker, GalleristNY and VelvetRoper.

"Elizabeth has been a phenomenal editor and manager," Jared Kushner, the principal owner of Observer Media Group, said in a statement. "Not only did she bring on a wonderful team, she redesigned the paper and websites, launched a slew of new verticals and web properties, and invigorated the newsroom, all while more than doubling web traffic."