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Pay cuts come to Condé Nast, the glossy publisher of Vogue and Vanity Fair

Condé Nast, the publishing giant behind Vogue, The New Yorker, and Vanity Fair, has its headquarters in the One World Trade Center in New York.
Condé Nast, the publishing giant behind Vogue, The New Yorker, and Vanity Fair, has its headquarters in the One World Trade Center in New York.Sam Hodgson/New York Times

NEW YORK — Condé Nast, the most glittering of all magazine publishers, is the latest media casualty of the coronavirus pandemic.

Roger J. Lynch, chief executive of the company behind Vogue, Vanity Fair, and The New Yorker, sent a memo Monday to 6,000 employees around the world to inform them of an austerity plan that includes pay cuts, furloughs, and possible layoffs.

“It’s very likely our advertising clients, consumers, and therefore our company, will be operating under significant financial pressure for some time,” Lynch said in the note. “As a result, we’ll need to go beyond the initial cost-savings measures we put in place to protect our business for the long term.”

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Those earning $100,000 or more — approximately just under half the company — will have their salaries reduced by 10 percent to 20 percent for five months, starting in May, the memo said. Executives in the senior management team, including Anna Wintour, the artistic director and Condé Nast’s best-known figurehead, will have their pay cut by 20 percent.

In addition, Lynch said he would forgo half of his salary, and board members who were not employees of Advance Publications (the holding company that owns Condé Nast), like Domenico De Sole, former chief executive of Gucci Group, would take a 50 percent reduction in their compensation.

Lynch did not specify how many layoffs were under consideration.

“While we consider it a last option, we do expect there will be some role eliminations as part of these efforts,” he said in the memo.

Those decisions are expected next month. In the meantime, the company has frozen hiring on hundreds of open positions.

The company plans to implement three- or four-day workweeks for some employees in markets such as Britain and the European Union, “in particular where government programs and stimulus packages can help supplement employees’ earnings,” Lynch wrote in the memo.

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Condé Nast is not directly asking for government money, but is instead exploring the use of relief programs and stimulus packages in certain regions for furloughed or laid-off employees. The company plans to take advantage of the “partial activity” assistance programs in those parts of the world to make up for the lost salary of furloughed employees or those who have had their hours cut.

In 2019, Condé Nast united its American and international arms into a single entity. The company has operations in France, Italy, Germany, and Spain, as well as Asia, with half its employees based in the United States.

Condé Nast would be one of the first major publishers to take advantage of government programs set up to make funds available to people whose jobs have been affected by the pandemic. Those programs were designed to help companies avoid layoffs, and some of the programs require the employer to request funds. Requesting government assistance would be an unusual move for a company whose high-paid editors have enjoyed perks such as town cars and clothing allowances. It could also risk alienating readers, for whom the idea of a glossy magazine publisher requesting funds for certain employees may be anathema.

Condé Nast had already been reevaluating its media strategy, refashioning itself to cater to an online audience attuned to Instagram and TikTok. It has sold off certain titles and turned once-mighty glossies like Glamour into digital-only enterprises. Following the subscription success of The New Yorker, paywalls went up around Vanity Fair and Wired. Vogue has started to embrace digital publishing, though it is still highly dependent on advertising revenue.

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As a result, and after several years of losses, the company was on a pace to turn a profit this year. The global pandemic has altered that trajectory, as it has for other publishers.

“We aren’t alone in needing to take actions like this,” Lynch said in the memo. “Companies around the world are all facing similar challenges and responding accordingly. But that doesn’t make this process any easier.”