Last night, I received word that Editor in Chief Peter Bart was being moved aside at Variety after 20 years. Naturally, I fanned out calls to all the trade bigwigs. Today, I phoned Variety editor Tim Gray asking if it were true that he was going to replace Bart. He asked if he could call me in 5 minutes. Twenty minutes later, Gray posted on Variety.com what I already knew. Effective immediately, Gray retains his title as Variety editor and reports to Variety Group Publisher Neil Stiles from now on. Bart will report to Reed Business Information CEO Tad Smith who isn’t involved in the day-to-day of the Variety Group because of his big management job. Obviously, I don’t need to tell you there’s been bad blood between Bart and Stiles. Now Stiles doesn’t have to deal with Bart anymore. Nor does Gray have to kowtow to Bart anymore. “Peter will probably try to give advice and stuff, but ultimately it’s Tim’s decision from now on,” one insider tells me. As for Smith, he’s expert at dealing with problems, and this was his solution to The Bart Problem.
Bart’s new title is “vice president and editorial director of Variety“, but it’s meaningless. He and the company are playing this like it’s voluntary, but Peter has been pushed “essentially up and out” of the newsroom, as one of my sources puts it. But he’ll be allowed to continue as the “face” of Variety in public — which is something Bart cares a lot about. His column and blog will continue. (Although the AMC weekly interview show Shootout he co-hosted with Peter Guber has been cancelled and replaced with quarterly primetime specials.)
Hollywood can now safely ignore Bart. Gray is the guy to suck up to there.
Here’s what the Variety announcement said, “In his new position, Bart will report directly to Smith, assisting him in furthering Variety‘s editorial mission in print and online and expanding the brand’s position in new revenue streams. Bart also will continue to contribute his weekly column as well as his blog and serve as Variety‘s ambassador in public venues, on television, on the web and at industry events.” Smith was quoted as saying, “Bart has managed Variety‘s staff and news operations for twenty years and we have long had an agreement in place that, at the 20-year mark, he would move on to new responsibilities. With this in mind, Tim Gray was named editor several years ago.”
Meanwhile, sources say Bart was seen having lunch last week with Gerry Byrne, the former Variety publisher who’s now a huge deal at Nielsen Business Media as head of the Media and Entertainment Group there. Granted the two are old pals. But, if you need a scorecard, Bart was having lunch with The Enemy since Nielsen owns The Hollywood Reporter.
Bart was one of the staunchest proponents that Variety has to remain a print publication, while others at Reed want to move the trade more (and even completely) into the digital era because of eroding advertising. Both trades have been the talk of Hollywood for their increasingly meager pages and skimpy ads. As one movie bigwig emailed me the other day, “Are the trades a public service play for Hollywood? Neither has more than a 1/4 page paid ad today. How do they survive?”
Meanwhile, my insiders believe someone may eventually be brought in above Gray editorially at Variety.