"They will be the only pure magazine company out there, and that's not a story that Wall Street will want to hear," said Reed Phillips, a media investment banker with DeSilva & Phillips.
The problems Time Inc. will face are not unique in an industry confronting steep challenges. But interviews with analysts and dozens of current and former Time Inc. executives suggest that a series of management missteps, a lack of investment from Time Warner and downsizing in preparation for the spinoff may have added to the degree of difficulty.
Under Mr. Ripp, all manner of cost-cutting appears to be on the table. In almost every meeting with investors and employees, he reminds them that he is constantly reviewing staffing levels. Some of Time Inc.'s magazines could be sold, and the company's real estate holdings could also be reduced, including a large campus for Southern Progress in Birmingham, Ala., and IPC's very valuable headquarters in London.
Turmoil within the company has been chronic. Time Inc. has churned through a series of chief executives over the last four years. Jack Griffin arrived from Meredith in 2010, but was pushed out within six months after employees revolted. Laura Lang, an advertising executive brought in to reconceive the business, never found her footing in 15 months and left last year with a severance of nearly $20 million, which outraged the rank and file.
Frustrated, Time Warner began to explore its options. Tax implications made an outright sale untenable. An attempt to merge Time Inc. with the Meredith Corporation in early 2013 fell through.
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Mr. Bewkes had a batch of iconic magazines, but he couldn't keep them, and no one wanted them. With the Meredith deal dead, and with the successful spinoffs of AOL and Time Warner Cable still a fresh memory, Time Warner quickly pivoted to a spinoff.
Mr. Ripp was recruited to take on the challenge. As the former vice chairman of AOL, Mr. Ripp had seen both the possibilities and perils of digital businesses, and his time as a print executive convinced him that historical divisions between editorial and sales were an expensive anachronism. Soon after arriving, he proposed that editors report to the company's business side, and not to the editor in chief, as they had in the past.
That did not sit well with Martha Nelson, the editor in chief who had turned People magazine into a behemoth and started InStyle; she left the company. Other top executives followed, and Mr. Ripp began assembling his own team, including a longtime associate, Jeffrey J. Bairstow, now Time Inc.'s chief financial officer.
The hiring of Norman Pearlstine, 71, a former editor in chief of Time Inc. who returned last year as chief content officer, was viewed as a signal that the integrity of the editorial product still mattered. But employees have complained that in the selection of Mr. Ripp and Mr. Pearlstine, Time Inc. anointed leadership figures tied to the very past it was trying to shed.