Inside Move: Rogers closing the book

Sales loom as exec, Primedia part ways

If there was any surprise to the April 17 announcement that Tom Rogers would step down as CEO of Primedia, it was that Rogers had survived as long as he did.

Rogers, 47, signed on in 1999, leaving a job as the head of NBC’s cable outfit, where he launched CNBC and MSNBC, to lead the publisher of a mishmash of trade titles including Dog World, Soybean Digest, Modern Bride and New York magazine.. He quickly earned a reputation as starry-eyed dot-com dreamer after making some ill-timed deals, including purchasing Web guide About.com for $426 million and bailing out the doomed Brill’s Content-Inside.com merger.

As with others who dabbled in the Internet, Primedia’s stock suffered: On the day Rogers started, Primedia stock was worth $11 a share. On his last day, that stock was at $2.80, a 75% decline.

One former Primedia exec says Henry Kravis, chairman of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., the hedge fund that cobbled Primedia together in 1995, perhaps concluded that the market would never warm to Rogers.

Says the ex-exec, “Wall Street kept telling Henry, ‘The stock will never go over $3 if Tom stays there.’ ”

In fact, immediately after Rogers ankled, Primedia rose 18¢ per share, or 6%, before closing the day at $2.85.

Rogers’ departure suggests Primedia will quickly shed more titles, though the market is shaky at best.

He had already begun that process, raising $345 million by selling off Bacon’s Information, Modern Bride, American Baby and Chicago magazine.

The day before Rogers stepped down, bids on Seventeen were due from Wenner Media, Conde Nast, Hearst and Hachette Filipacchi.

With Rogers gone, New York magazine, along with the rest of the company, is also on the block.

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