‘This guy is serious’
Ten Penske Media employees interviewed for this article describe their boss as someone who went to great lengths to get publications. “Jay Pensk came and saved the business,” said DA Lawrence, Variety’s chief operating and marketing officer. “He’s the hero of the publishing world.” His company has more than 1,350 employees, about half of whom are journalists and content creators, according to Gary Byrne, vice chairman of Pensk Media.
The company bought a controlling stake in Vibe and Billboard, headquartered in New York, and went there to meet each new employee. “It was in the middle of an epidemic, and so I thought, ‘Wow, this guy is serious!'” Dayton Thomas, Vibe’s editor-in-chief, said. Mr. Thomas met Mr. Pensk for lunch at Bryant Park Grill in Midtown. “Jay knew a lot about me and my background,” he said, “and he knew a lot about Vibe.” Four other Pensk Media employees said Mr. Pensk practices meeting with each of his new employees immediately after acquiring the property.
Mr. Pensk will sometimes play hardball with the staff. The subscription newsletter started by show business writer Richard Rushfield when longtime Hollywood reporter Tatiana Siegel accepted a job at The Anchor was published by former Hollywood Reporter’s top editor Janice Mean, Mr. Pensk rocked the move. Ms. Siegel’s agreement includes a non-competitive clause, and Mr. Pensk held her. The parties finally agreed that Ms. Siegel will go to Rolling Stone and hand over 80 percent of the work, the rest will go to The Anchor.
“Jay has been the best owner I’ve ever worked with on The Hollywood Reporter,” she said. Siegel, who joined the magazine in 2003. “My situation was unique, and it was resolved amicably.”
A new threat to Pensk Media’s hold on upstart publications puck and The Anchor Entertainment coverage. The race is reminiscent of an event more than a decade ago, when an old guard was shaking in the deadline. Mr. Rushfield said start-ups can benefit from published publications, as they are invisible to anyone.
“If you’re in a publication like Variety, for example, it’s hard to keep track of how many things are up to you in the studio,” Mr. Rushfield said. “You need friendly access to gift wrapping your scoops for studio executives and agents. You need people to cover you. You just have to be more discriminating with the help you render toward other people, “he said.