Florio Quits Helm of Condé Nast, Denies Health Rumors

13 January 2004

The stately ocean liner that is Condé Nast Publications has run into choppy waters with the abrupt departure of Steve Florio (54) from the helm after nearly ten years as chief executive, and twenty-five years all told with the family-run company. He is replaced by Charles Townsend (59).

Florio, who underwent quadruple bypass surgery in 1998, may have taken a decision to renounce the company's punishing work ethic following a fainting fit while working out in early December.

Condé Nast, owned by the Newhouse family, is known for sweating its senior executives. Florio reportedly rose most working days at 4.30am so as to make 5am meetings called by his boss, chairman Samuel I ('Si') Newhouse.

According to Florio, he was no longer prepared to work the hours demanded by the privately-owned company's regimen: "I need a lifestyle change," he told Newhouse. "It wasn't something I wanted to hear," Newhouse confided to the New York Post, "we had probably the most successful year in the history of the company in ad pages and in stature."

And profit? Ah, that's top secret information denied to outsiders by the secretive Newhouse clan: "We never talk about profits," Si admonished the newspaper.

On Monday it became official: Florio is now elevated to vice chairman of the Condé Nast's holding company, Advance Magazine Group. "I go from seventeen direct reports to one," said a seemingly jubilant Florio. "I report to Si."

But word from within is that the former ceo's shunt upstairs was triggered by his heart condition. Florio denies this: "I'm in the best health that I've been in for years," he insists.

His replacement, Townsend, is currently chief operating officer both of the parent company and Condé Nast. He adds to those roles that of chief executive of the publishing company, whose magazine stable includes such major titles as Vanity Fair, Vogue and The New Yorker.

He is reputedly a low key, bottom-line-oriented executive -- the very antithesis, reports the Post, of the "blustery, swaggering Florio".

Data sourced from: New York Post; additional content by WARC staff