(Refresh for latest…) Publisher John Kilcullen kept saying for months and months he was looking for a “star” to be the next editor of The Hollywood Reporter. He even delusionally told job candidates he wanted someone “along the lines of Ken Auletta”. No, he wasn’t joking. But it does seem like a joke that he’s now hired Elizabeth Guider, an unimpressive choice who sources tell me was passed over and demoted at Variety. In short, this looks to be far less of a get and more like an also-ran. But Kilcullen inexplicably needed to hire not one but two high-priced executive search firms to choose an editor who was right under his nose. Guider’s selection also continues the increasing “Variety-zation” of THR starting with parent company Nielsen Business Media’s hiring of Variety publishing bigwig Gerry Byrne as a consultant and Variety veterans Eric Mika as senior V-P and publishing director and Rose Einstein in the role of V-P and associate publisher. Of course, what’s especially amusing about Guider’s selection is that she used to trash THR at every public opportunity while at Variety. One source recalls a 2000 USC entertainment industry confab composed of showbiz journalism panelists from the Los Angeles Times and trades, including Guider. “Everyone was surprised by the verbal grenades and utter contempt she had for The Hollywood Reporter. And it is all on camera. Good thing the trades don’t do TV ads,” an eyewitness said. Another insider tells me, “Elizabeth over the years was particularly outspoken in her competitive feelings about THR. So this really is the loyal general switching armies.”
Among the 40 or so candidates for editor on Kilcullen’s original list were ex-THR editor Alex Ben Block, New York Times Hollywood correspondent Sharon Waxman, NYT movie editor turned Hollywood correspondent Michael Cieply, THR freelancer Stephen Galloway, Los Angeles Times business writer Claudia Eller, LA Times ex-senior Calendar editor Lennie LaGuire who appeared to be the leading candidate but obviously wasn’t (thus deepening the mystery of what she’ll do after she’s done consulting to the paper). But Kilcullen made it clear to everyone inside the business who called him suggesting names that he was looking for a softball editor, someone who wouldn’t ruffle advertisers’ feathers.
Of course, Guider is not without her defenders who say she’s liked and respected. “At least she’s a mature woman who really knows the business, so I can’t argue with her selection,” one insider told me. “She’s a good journalist and a good human being.” But others make the point that she’s a journalism lightweight despite her many years of experience. In any case, her profile at Variety, while once high, had been lowered recently. She was long loyal to Peter Bart (he liked to call her by the nickname “Guido” while staffers called her “Blanche”, after Blanche DuBois, because of her Southern accent.) Yet Bart passed her over for Tim Gray for Variety‘s top editor job. She was also moved off the important in-the-line-of-fire job of Executive Editor to the amorphous out-of-the-line-of-fire position of Editor At Large. Sources tell me it was Guider’s expertise in the international arena, especially overseas TV markets, that was the reason for her selection today. “THR wants to be the international paper,” an insider told me. Indeed the PR announcement said she was hired to lead strategic editorial direction globally.
But this is more of the same of what I and everyone else have come to expect from the trades who ferociously guard their insularity and rarely allow new blood to infiltrate. “It’s basically the same five people at the top. All they do is migrate from one trade to another and back again!,” one trade veteran remarked. Which is why sources tell me Guider’s hiring is the unseen handiwork of Gerry Byrne (photo right), who retired as group vice president of Variety and Daily Variety after 11 years in that post and is now a so-called senior adviser to Nielsen, THR‘s owner. “He’s the secret power with no official title calling the shots,” an insider described. I’m told it was Byrne who helped engineer THR‘s hiring of Mika (from London), and Einstein, and now Guider.
One thing is certain: she takes on THR at one of its lowest ebbs. See my previous: