Nine months after he fired Jack Griffin, Time Warner (NYSE: TWX) CEO Jeff Bewkes has finally filled the most prominent empty chair at the media company, appointing Laura Lang, CEO of Digitas since 2008, as CEO of Time Inc. Once again, he’s going outside the company to do it — and this time, he’s also going a step further by opting for digital advertising experience over publishing expertise.
At this point, Time Inc. has been operating without a CEO roughly twice as long as the last one held the job. Griffin, who moved over from Meredith (NYSE: MDP) last fall, was ousted in February after his efforts at reorganization caused more upheaval than Bewkes intended. Griffin’s choice of Randall Rothenberg as chief digital officer was well received but not much else as he seemed intent on treating Time Inc. overall like it was broken and he’d been brought in to fix it.
Lang might be more likely to focus on the publishing unit’s strengths and build on them while focusing more of her energy on the transition to digital revenue. Her expertise in digital advertising and her understanding of the changing dynamics of that business, along with her experience on the agency side, should be a plus.
Bewkes’s choice of Lang was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
David adds: Although not an obvious choice to head an established magazine publisher, there are a number of things about her personally and professionally that made her Bewkes choice. First, her digital expertise is considered paramount as print advertising declines and revenue and readership through the web and mobile grows. Secondly, after complaints about the brusque, male culture that Griffin briefly brought in, Lang is someone who exudes warmth and politesse — personal qualities that are deeply ingrained with Time Warner’s “no screamers, no drama” attitude.
While Howard Averill, the CFO who also serves as one of the three members of Time Inc.’s Interim Management Committee that was created when Griffin was ousted, was rumored as a possible choice for CEO, Bewkes clearly had his eyes looking outside of Time Inc., despite the major blow-up that came amid Griffin’s short stint. The problem for Time Warner was that there weren’t any obvious candidates: David Carey appears happily ensconced at Hearst and Bob Sauerberg was similarly settled at Condé Nast.
When Lang was tapped, she was vetted at a lunch of roughly a dozen Time Inc. execs and she clicked with them fairly instantly, sources, told paidContent. With questions of culture and avoidance of any controversy, at least in the interim settled, now the question is: how much can — and will — Lang be able to change Time Inc.’s direction. There is no stomach for the kind of overhaul that Griffin attempted to initiate. Figuring out the level of change the company needs and can accept will be the first test of Lang’s management abilities and her diplomatic skills.
New York – November 30, 2011 – Time Warner Inc. Chairman and CEO Jeff Bewkes today announced the appointment of Laura Lang as Chief Executive Officer of Time Inc. Ms. Lang will join the company from Digitas Inc. where she served as Chief Executive Officer since 2008. She will become CEO of the largest U.S. publishing company, home to such iconic brands as PEOPLE, TIME, INSTYLE, and SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, in January 2012.
Ms. Lang will assume the role of leading Time Inc. from an interim management committee composed of Howard Averill, Maurice Edelson, and John Huey, which successfully guided the company during the last ten months.
In making the announcement Mr. Bewkes said: “Laura’s leadership experience, brand management expertise, understanding of digital and marketing, and strong relationships with the creative and advertising communities are a great fit for Time Inc. She is the right person to lead the company as it aggressively evolves its businesses during a time of great change and opportunity in publishing.”
Mr. Bewkes continued: “I want to thank Howard, Maurice and John for their seamless leadership during this transition period. They ensured that Time Inc. not only maintained its position as the industry’s premier magazine publisher, but also effectively executed the company’s “content everywhere” digital strategy. Their steady stewardship and dedication to ongoing innovation have been, and will continue to be, invaluable.”
Ms. Lang said: “I am thrilled to be joining the best journalists and publishing executives in the world at Time Inc. during such an exciting time for media and publishing. Time Inc’s premier brands and stellar reputation, along with Time Warner’s commitment to lead the digital transformation of all its businesses, will lead to great opportunities to deepen our connections with consumers.”
At Digitas, Ms. Lang led the largest digital marketing agency in the world to achieve its best two years of new business growth in its history, adding over 90 new clients worldwide since she took the helm in 2008. Under Ms. Lang’s leadership the company also expanded its global footprint with new offices around the world and became one of the leading buyers of digital media worldwide.
Ms. Lang has more than 20 years experience in senior leadership positions in digital and traditional advertising and marketing, and she is well-known for creating strong relationships between clients and consumers. Prior to being named worldwide CEO of Digitas, she led its operations in the U.S. with a focus on brand management. Before joining Digitas in 1999, Ms. Lang was president of Marketing Corporation of America where she provided strategic consulting services to clients in pharmaceutical, technology, entertainment, and financial services industries. She also led the consulting practice at Yankelovich Clancy Shulman where she provided strategic marketing services to Fortune 100 clients. Earlier in her career, Ms. Lang worked in strategic planning at Pfizer and brand management at Quaker Oats and Bristol Myers.
Ms. Lang has been honored by Advertising Age’s Women to Watch 2007, BtoB Magazine’s Who’s Who (three years in a row), and Women’s Business Boston, and is a member of the Global 50.
She graduated summa cum laude from Tufts University and holds an M.B.A. from the University Of Pennsylvania Wharton School Of Business. She serves on the Board of Directors of VF Corporation, the Board of Directors of Benchmark Electronics and co-chairs “The One Hundred,” a committee dedicated to raising awareness and funds for the groundbreaking work being done at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center.