PALACE INTRIGUE 4 Times Square Every year, Condé Nast chairman Si Newhouse repairs to Vienna for the month of December, only to drop a bombshell in the new year. In 2003, it was the retirement of CEO Steve Florio; in 2004, the departure of editorial director James Truman; and, last year, the exit of Mary Berner, CEO of the Fairchild division.
It's still weeks away, but top-level Condé Nast insiders believe they know who will be the target of this year's January surprise: Mitchell Fox, one of the company's two group presidents, and the executive in charge of W, WWD, Bon Appétit, and the Golf Digest and bridal groups. Amid a rising tide of discontent over Fox's management style, and rumors about his sour relationship with corporate sales honcho Richard Beckman, most handicappers expect to see Fox's portfolio downgraded—perhaps drastically—before the annual off-site publishers meeting on January 29.
"Everyone under him is miserable, and it's gone all the way to the top," claims one veteran of 4 Times Square. "The discussions right now are over whether or not he's going to end up the way Mary Berner went last year."
"In this company," says a high-ranking sales source, "where there's smoke, there's fire."