Since taking over The Hollywood Reporter, Billboard and Mediaweek earlier this year, former Conde Nast executive Richard Beckman has been making noise by hiring, or trying to hire, the sorts of big names you don't usually find in trade publishing -- people like former Us Weekly editor Janice Min and Page Six editor Richard Johnson. Has he now cast his eye on Rupert Murdoch biographer and professional gadfly Michael Wolff (pictured)?
Three times in the past month, the Vanity Fair columnist and Newser.com founder has been spotted in the building on East 9th Street in Manhattan where Beckman's company, E5 Global Media, has its offices. (It's also the building where DailyFinance resides.) On Tuesday, he exited the elevator on the seventh floor -- E5's home.
Could his presence there be related to the company's search for an editorial director to run Mediaweek and two of its sister publications, Adweek and Brandweek? That search has been going on all summer. Around six weeks ago, the company was close to hiring someone but failed to close the deal, according to two sources. Wolff would be an obvious candidate, having covered the media business for years, first for New York magazine and more recently for Vanity Fair. (Wolff's role there appears to have been scaled down: A Nexis search for his byline shows only three articles this year. He recently became a contributor to Wired, another Conde Nast title.)
I ran this scenario by Wolff, whose unpleasant personal manner is so famous as to be perversely endearing. "Let's not have this conversation," he said. When I pressed him for a comment, he reminded me of a story I wrote last year saying that he was preparing a column for Vanity Fair about how his personal life had become gossip fodder for the New York Post -- a column that was never published. I asked him why he'd brought that up. "I'm saying get some stuff right for once," he snapped, and hung up the phone. (In fact, Wolff himself confirmed to me at the time that he was writing the column, but cautioned that it was a work in progress and might not turn out as I expected.) He didn't respond to a follow-up email seeking clarification, and an E5 spokeswoman was unable to shed any light.
It's interesting to imagine what the office dynamic would be like at E5 should Wolff end up working there. Whereas Wolff's contentious nature comes across as peevishness, Beckman is known as more of a rager: His nickname at Conde Nast was "Mad Dog."
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