A few eyebrows shot into the stratosphere when Rupert Murdoch biographer and Vanity Fair columnist Michael Wolff took the editorial helm at Adweek a year ago and now Mike is on his way after a turbulent year.
First he shifted the focus of Adweek, number two in the US market to Advertising Age, towards editorial media stories (chiefly the News Corporation phone hacking scandal but other stuff besides) and then instituted an excellent redesign by Pentagram.
Officially he and publisher Prometheus Global Media, the company that bought researcher Nielsen’s trade titles, are parting on the best of terms. Wolff says: “I’ve had a fantastic time at Adweek. It’s been my privilege to be part of the brilliant transformation of the magazine and site. I can’t rave enough about Adweek’s remarkable staff. I am sad to leave but sure the talent here will continue to do great things. I’m grateful to everybody at Prometheus for giving me this opportunity and this wonderful year.”
Prometheus boss James Finkelstein is slightly less fulsome: “We are grateful for Michael’s contribution to Adweek. His vision and guidance were essential during our monumental transformation.” Executive editor James Cooper is minding the shop.
Wolff is probably best known for writing The Man Who Owns the News: inside the secret world of Rupert Murdoch, which is a bit of publisher’s hype because Murdoch actually gave Wolff a surprising degree of access only to be walloped by the subsequent, highly readable book.
Then Wolff set off in further hot pursuit of the Murdoch clan, penning a number of highly critical pieces about phone hacking and other aspects of the empire and appearing on TV all over the place, predicting in one interview that Murdoch senior and son James would soon be behind bars.
This is just the kind of thing to make trade publishing bosses (not always the most courageous people as their unruly hacks write about their advertisers) extremely nervous especially as, in this case, it meant tangling with the most powerful media dynasty on the planet.
And there was also the (relative) change of focus from advertising to media although much of the advertising coverage under Wolff was excellent. He did, though, produce some rather gimmicky lists and left field columnists, including the ineffable Hephzibah Anderson (pictured) and her ‘sex and the media.’
So, as Private Eye would put it, it’s a case of ‘Farewell then Michael Wolff.’ And where will the 58-year old enfant terrible turn up next? Not a Murdoch title surely?