Conde Nast officially unveiled Radhika Jones as the new editor in chief of Vanity Fair, succeeding Graydon Carter who is stepping down after 25 years at the helm.
In picking Jones, the publishing giant is banking on an editor with literary ties and experience developing digital businesses, but who has no profile in the fashion world or in Hollywood, where Carter had established himself as a kingmaker.
Jones was for the past year the editorial director of books at the New York Times. Earlier, she was a rising star at Time magazine, where she supervised the annual Time 100 and Person Of the Year issues as a deputy managing editor, and earlier helped revamp its web site.
Before that, Jones was a managing editor at the Paris Review and worked as a reporter on the Moscow Times.
Her appointment shows the pivotal role that The New Yorker editor in chief David Remnick played in picking a successor to Carter. It was Remnick who championed her and brought her to the attention of Anna Wintour, the Vogue editor in chief and Conde Nast artistic director, and Conde Nast CEO Bob Sauerberg.
“Yes, that is fair to say,” said Sauerberg, asked about Remnick’s fateful introduction.
Jones will be tasked with delivering big cost savings to Conde Nast, which is in the midst of firing up to 75 people as part of a corporate edict to slash $100 million from expenses.
Women’s Wear Daily said that the cutbacks already started last week at GQ, where its editor in chief Jim Nelson had been one of the internal candidates for the VF job.
Other candidates that Jones beat included Janice Min, the former editorial director of The Hollywood Reporter and Billboard, and one-time EIC of Us Weekly; New York Times financial correspondent Andrew Ross Sorkin and Jess Cagle, editorial director of People and Entertainment Weekly.
Jones was said to be commanding a salary of only $500,000, compared to Carter’s reported $2 million in annual compensation and a seven-figure deal that it would have taken to land Min.
Sauerger insisted, “I was looking for the best person for the job. I can’t say financial was a driving force.”
While he would not disclose the length of the contract, he did say, “The way I am looking it this will be very long term.”
Sources say one of the first items on the agenda will the combination of Vanity Fair’s photo and design teams with those of Vogue. In that way, Wintour will be able to cut costs and rid VF of many high-priced Carter appointments while exerting big influence on Jones’s fashion editorial.
Carter, 68, had resisted any move to share staffers with Vogue and earlier has fought against pushing his copy editing team into a corporate editing pool.
The looming cost cuts were said to be what spurred Carter to announce his retirement in September, without first clearing it with corporate — although sources said corporate had already determined that 2017 was to be his last year. They are throwing Carter a goodbye dinner at Balthazar early next month. Jones take up her new job on Dec. 11.
Regarding any future changes, Sauerberg said, “We’re not even talking about that kind of stuff right now. We figure Radhika will come in and assess the business.”
Sauerberg said that Jones will preside over the 2018 Oscar party that Gradon Carter had built up into one of the glitziest post-award shows in Hollywood. Still, industry sources are already expecting it will be scaled back by the time the ensuing party rolls around in 2019.