Ripp to take Time Inc. PublicJuly 22, 2013: 1:19 PM ET
After selecting outsiders as Time Inc.'s past two CEOs, Time Warner took the safe route, choosing Joe Ripp, a 19-year company veteran who left in 2004, as CEO of the soon-to-be-independent Time Inc.
By Jennifer Reingold, senior editor
FORTUNE -- Joe Ripp will be the new CEO of Time Inc., Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes announced today. Ripp., 61, a former CFO of Time Inc., Time Warner (TWX) and AOL (AOL), and currently the CEO of OneSource Information Services, was seen as a relatively safe choice after Bewkes's ill-fated selections of outsiders Jack Griffin and then Laura Lang as the previous chiefs of the $3.4 billion publishing unit. Insiders perceive him as someone who understands the often-political Time Inc. culture but who also has the financial acumen to guide the company through a spinoff, expected later this year or early next year.
The other top candidate for the job was another outsider-insider, Michael Klingensmith, himself a former Time Inc. CFO who now runs the Star Tribune Media Company. But sources close to the company say talks broke down over both salary and his desire to remain in Minneapolis. A third name that had surfaced, Time Inc. CFO Howard Averill, was named to the same position at the parent company today. A Time Warner spokesperson did not return a call seeking comment.
Taking Time Inc. public will be a difficult challenge for Ripp -- or for anyone. Ripp, who is the father of Fortune's Vice-President of Sales, Brendan Ripp, must convince investors that there is value in a collection of print magazines. The brands themselves, which range from People to InStyle to Time and Fortune, have a distinguished history and they remain profitable overall. But they are facing the same challenges as all established media are and, as a result, Time Inc. earnings have dropped for seven straight quarters. Also unclear is how much debt Time Warner will choose to assign to its former unit. Bewkes used the number $1.5 billion -- a figure that a previous Fortune article argued might burden Time Inc. -- while speaking to colleagues at a dinner a few weeks ago. A Time Warner spokesman subsequently asserted that Bewkes was speaking in an "illustrative" manner. Says Dave Novosel, senior analyst at Gimme Credit: "If you see a resurgence in the business then more leverage is better. But it would be hard to argue that this is a high-growth business."