Richard "Mad Dog" Beckman, CEO of Condé Nast's Fairchild Fashion Group--which includes WWD, W and Footwear News--has resigned to join e5 Global Media, a group of trade rags including The Hollywood Reporter, Billboard, MediaWeek and AdWeek. Our sources inside the company say that this came as a complete shock to employees. Condé Nast CEO Chuck Townsend apparently sent a one line email this morning announcing Beckman's departure, so he must be a little bit shocked as well. In mid-December, Conde Nast's Fashion Group had an all-hands-on-deck holiday party where Richard Beckman articulated a 5-year-plan that would take the industry bible into a digital, multimedia era, including WWD television programming. Less than a month later, staffers, as one insider put it, are viewing that speech as "performance art of the highest degree." Beckman’s decision to leave came as a complete surprise and left the company—and possibly several specific projects--in the lurch. Among them the planned May relaunch of a men's fashion title. The only official communication was a one-line email from CEO Chuck Townsend confirming Beckman's departure. "It's bad," said the insider. "We have to start from scratch, possibly with someone we don't know. Who knows what they'll do? Not to mention, Beckman has been depicted as our last-chance savior."
The-once publisher of Vogue--known for his over-the-top management style, i.e. asking two female employees to kiss at a party--was pushed out of his role as CEO of Condé Nast Media Group in March 2009, tasked with making Fairchild Fashion Group’s struggling titles—particularly W—financially viable again. By year-end, things weren’t looking up: W’s advertising sales, for instance, were down 45.8% in 2009 to $1.9 million. What do we think is next for the Fairchild Group, then? There are two scenarios floating around. One is that Condé will eliminate Beckman’s role altogether and fold Fairchild into its magazine group. The other is that e5 Global Media might be eyeing WWD and Footwear News for acquisition. The newly formed company did just buy Hollywood Reporter and co. from Nielsen in December 2009. Have have more info? You know what to do.