27
Oct
07

What’s Killing Your VIBE Magazine?

Beth Gilles (Sportswear Director at Vibe Magazine) and Dana Hill

If you didn’t think the departure of Len Burnett spells I-T-S A-W-R-A-P for Vibe Magazine check out these other departures.

  • Melissa Scragg may not be a household name in the world of marketing or urban content but she is a highly valuable piece in the Vibe Magazine stable. On the same day of Len Burnett’s announcement, Scragg, the Vibe Magazine Production Director, announced she was accepting another offer sending Vibe management into convulsions. Was her reason for leaving another offer or did she see the writing on the wall?

  • By far the announcement that should have been message to the masses came weeks before Len Burnett’s announcement when Fashion Ad “GURU” (‘m not over-using those words either) Beth Gillies (Pictured, Left) decided to resign and move back to her homestate of Minnesota. Gilles and her relationships were a cornerstone revenue stream for the magazine and she has been there through all of the regimes (Clinkscales, Gibbs, et al). With her gone, the staff has been reduced to a very green (but we hear talented) staff of ad sales people in a really jacked up ad sales climate.

https://i2.wp.com/rnbworld.phpnet.org/forum/images/promo/Vibe.jpg

The story on Len Burnett’s exit is one we have heard before. Here is a guy that helped to launch Vibe Magazine when he and his frat brother Keith Clinkscales were called by Bob Miller and Quincy Jones to run it in the mid 90’s. As Clinkscales trusty sidekick, Burnett created a stellar reputation in the industry as a well-liked and honest part of the team of Vibe “characters.” After several years building that magazine into national prominence, Burnett and Clinkscales jumped the Vibe party train to launch Vanguarde Media during the Silicon Alley boom and were successful in acquiring many different media assets. Unfortunately, the market was “loopy” but the idea was right. Burnett again was a major part of the success and a great balancing act to the “brand” Keith Clinkscales. After Vanguarde imploded, “Lenny” went on to create Uptown Magazine with partner Brett Wright (Nu America Marketing) and as a fellow Harlem-ite, really had a great vision for the property. In addition to the visual and content offering being innovative, this also was a venture done without Clinkscales and allowed Burnett’s own brand to blossom. A couple of years into building Uptown, Len decided to go back to Vibe and join then President Kenard Gibbs as Group Publisher.

Things got exciting for Burnett in his first year back at Vibe. He became part of a new team formed by Gibbs (Kenard Gibbs, Peter Griffith, Bob Miller) that made a power move to purchase Vibe from their then ownership, Freeman Spogli. Though they put together a valiant effort and clearly had met the selling price, the sellers decided to go with The Wicks Group led by Eric Gertler (nephew of Mort Zuckerman) and Ari Horowitz. That my friends is when the spiral began. First they let Gibbs leave Vibe Magazine and then The Wicks Group put “nephew” and his “buddy” Ari in to run the magazine. Burnett who had been used to playing the strong, “backbone” role stayed on and helped them in the Publisher capacity. After the board found Ari and Eric inept which led to their mutual “resignation”, instead of naturally hiring the clearly capable Len Burnett, the Wicks Group board went with a new CEO named Steve Aaron, basically a “non-player” in the urban space.

A saga like no other but a true reflection of the state of urban media which has taken an interesting twist in the last 18 months.
By default, Giant Magazine, and their new ownership at Radio One, is looking more and more legit as a contender to own the urban space (and whatever that means today!) One would only imagine that Giant would be pulling their money together to make an offer to Vibe EIC, Danyel Smith, who also a returnee and original EIC at Vibe finds herself in an interesting position…….enjoy the ride.

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