Condé Nast Selects a Deal-Making Tech Executive as Its New Chief

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The board of Condé Nast announced a new chief executive Thursday, naming Roger J. Lynch to take charge of the century-old publisher of Vogue, Vanity Fair and The New Yorker as the company looks to stem its financial losses and transform itself into a creator for the digital age.

Mr. Lynch is an outsider who comes from the worlds of technology, television and finance. Most recently he served as the head of Pandora, the streaming music service that SiriusXM acquired last year. Mr. Lynch and several other Pandora executives stepped down at the end of January.

“Condé Nast has really culturally significant and iconic brands,” Mr. Lynch, 56, said in an interview. “That’s why I got interested. I’m really looking forward to it.”

He will replace Robert A. Sauerberg Jr., who announced in November that he would step down once his successor had been found. Mr. Sauerberg, who ran the once-plush Condé Nast for less than four years, struggled to turn around the business, which was slow to adapt to digital platforms. The company’s sales declined, like those in the rest of the magazine industry.

[Read more about Mr. Sauerberg’s tenure at Condé Nast and his departure.]

Mr. Lynch, who is scheduled to start on April 22, will lead both Condé Nast and Condé Nast International. The two sibling companies have historically been operated separately, but are being combined to save on costs and streamline much of the business.

Before taking the new job, Mr. Lynch will move from San Francisco to New York, where he lived in the 1990s when he was a banker at Morgan Stanley. He will replace Mr. Sauerberg on the four-person Condé Nast board; members also include Jonathan and Steven O. Newhouse, whose family has run the company since 1959, and Thomas Summer, the chief financial officer of Advance Publications, Condé Nast’s Newhouse-owned parent company.

Mr. Lynch has his work cut out for him. In 2017, Condé Nast lost more than $120 million, but it narrowed those losses last year after cutting costs through layoffs and increasing revenue from digital video. The company stopped putting out print editions of some of its magazines, including Glamour, and has been seeking buyers for Brides, Golf Digest and W.

Steven O. Newhouse, a nephew of the company’s longtime chairman, S. I. Newhouse, who died in 2017, helped lead the search for the new boss. He said the board had settled on Mr. Lynch after more than half a dozen meetings starting in December.

“We felt really comfortable dealing with Roger,” Mr. Newhouse said in a brief interview. “His experience dealing with disruption and uncertainty — which in the media business is now the norm — and his entrepreneurial skills gave him a unique skill set.”

Mr. Lynch, a veteran of TV and internet businesses, was well compensated at Pandora, receiving roughly $12.7 million in salary, stock awards and bonuses in 2017. After the Pandora sale was announced last year, he declined SiriusXM’s offer for him to stay on. It was around that time that Condé Nast reached out to him.

There was no aha moment in choosing Mr. Lynch, according to Jonathan Newhouse, a cousin of the company’s late patriarch who has directed its international operations since 1991. “And that was good,” he added. “We didn’t want someone who was flashy. This was a rational process, and it took a lot of meetings.”

He added, “My role now is to support Roger as he takes on this responsibility, which he’s so superbly qualified to carry out.”

Mr. Lynch, a Virginia native who has bounced around the globe running businesses and start-ups, mostly in the tech industry, spent a large portion of his career at Dish, the satellite TV service. There, he ran the streaming service Sling, the first product to replicate a bundle of cable and network channels on a digital platform.

His experience in television could help Condé Nast amplify its digital video business, which has become lucrative for the publisher.

“I definitely see that as part of the future,” Mr. Lynch said. “It’s very expensive to produce, but it’s also very lucrative.”

The larger challenge, as he sees it, is to find ways for the company to tap into the areas where audiences have flocked.

“It’s not fruitful to try to use logic to predict how consumers will behave,” he said. “It’s much more fruitful to see how they behave and adapt your business models to that.”

That is likely to mean trying new ventures and exploiting some of the company’s more successful digital efforts. Aside from online video, Vogue China has become a moneymaker for the company, thanks to its robust presence on the Chinese mobile app WeChat, which can be thought of as a combination of Facebook, Twitter, Amazon and Google.

Altogether, the company’s international business has become a bright spot, generating $50 million in profit for 2017, largely in Asia. The United States and European arms still incur losses.

In addition to his turnaround effort at Pandora, Mr. Lynch helped take Mark Cuban’s internet company Broadcast.com public more than 20 years ago, during his days as a Morgan Stanley banker. The deal eventually made a billionaire out of Mr. Cuban, who is now known as the owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball franchise and as a panelist on the reality show “Shark Tank.”

“He reminds me of that all the time,” Mr. Lynch said. “Internet valuations were hard to understand or rationalize at the time. I think the first day the stock tripled.”

Mr. Lynch also has a hobby: He plays lead guitar in a classic-rock cover band, the Merger. Other band members are also chief executives, he said, and the group has played charity events and once opened for Lady Antebellum.

His past work as a deal maker and a turnaround artist may raise eyebrows at 1 World Trade Center, the United States headquarters of Condé Nast, but he said a sale of the business was not on the agenda.

“I’m not going into this expecting that to happen,” Mr. Lynch said. “The family has owned it for decades, and I expect it to stay that way. That’s part of the appeal. I wouldn’t have taken this job otherwise.”

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