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July 03, 2008

Tension at Conde Nast: Lipman V. Graydon

Portfoliojags

Tongues are wagging yet again over the fate of Conde Nast's business magazine Portfolio, and this time it's not just embittered ex-staffers. The thin display of ads in this month's issue with Starbucks' Howard Schultz as cover art (32 ad pages, according to a spokeswoman) was shocking to many, even if it does reflect summer doldrums and a slowed economy. How long can it go on this way? Meanwhile, the mood in editorial is far from warm and fuzzy. The latest top editor to leave is photo editor Lisa Berman, who has just abandoned the glamorous glossy for the more workaday environs of Entertainment Weekly. "I don't know a single writer or editor there who wouldn't rather be working somewhere else," came the harsh view from inside the Conde Nast building. Calls around the Times Square tower kick up a surprising amount of animosity toward editor Joanne Lipman, with comments like "confusion" and "identity crisis" among the kinder remarks. (We try to avoid ad hominems here at Waxword.)

There's another thing. Here in Hollywood, I keep hearing that Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter has prevailed on his coterie of power broker friends – among them Brian Grazer, Jim Wiatt, Brad Grey – to keep Portfolio from any big Hollywood 'gets.' Carter denies it. But it is notable that Portfolio has yet to weigh in with any major Hollywood pieces that might move magazines off the stand. Where's the Will Smith, mogul-in-the-making story? Or the Judd-Apatow-Comedy-Business-Genius cover? (Barry Diller was a 'get,' but at this stage, he's more Internet than Hollywood.)

A spokeswoman for Portfolio, Perri Dorset, said "We've not found" any evidence of Carter blocking and tackling. "Hollywood is a big place. We'll continue to cover it aggressively," she said. Asked about it, Carter responded: "Not only have I never spoken to anyone in Hollywood about Portfolio, I wish the magazine well and think it gets better with every issue." That's nice, but it's not what I'm hearing sotto voce. Graydon is "definitely blocking them in Hollywood," said one former Portfolio editor who asked not to be identified. Lead Hollywood correspondent Amy Wallace is "being blacklisted a little bit." Wallace, who has done major takeouts on financier Ryan Kavanaugh and lawyer/Superman expert Marc Toberoff, declined to comment.

Comments

A reader

Only someone from Hollywood could have the myopic view that Hollywood stories make or break a business magazine. Or even belong in a business magazine. Grazer? CAA? Diller? Who gives a rats' ass. Half of what's gone wrong with Fortune and Business Week is this very thing -- waaaay too much Hollywood crap, and Spy-lite charticles. But YOU seem to think it's what people who buy a business magazine want to read - as if they can't get it anywhere else, and there's a dearth of show-biz stuff in the Journal, Vanity Fair, The Times, etc etc etc. You've been in LA too long.

the insider

Let us know if you ever get anyone on the record. Then there might be a reason to believe you -- and come back.

Mark

This is dead-on. I know a lot of current and ex-Portfolio writers, and Lippman is who they all point at as the primary problem. Question is when Conde Nast will can her.

GORGONZOLA

Portfolio is good, but niche is sloppily defined. Others will eat its lunch. As for Lipman, you get what you pay for

AK

Lipman doesn't know magazines (she comes from newspapers). Jim Impoco should have been made editor-in-chief, in my opinion. We all now must wonder why Si picked her. She is cute and sexy, but is that enough?

Michael E.

Portfolio is a huge joke of a book. The glut of ad pages over their first year was mostly the result of package deals with other Conde books and even "freebies" to get advertisers hooked. The advertising reality is now that they're running a real magazine, they can sell numbers like 32 pages. I'll give Portfolio that it's a gorgeously designed publication, but the actual words are shit.

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