Many staffers at Time Inc. New Media reported for work Monday morning to find that their president had unexpectedly resigned over the holiday weekend. Linda McCutcheon, who had held the position since 1997, is departing Time to "explore new opportunities in the area of online business," she told colleagues in an e-mail sent late Friday.
McCutcheon is the second top official in the division to step down this year; Dan Okrent, editor of Time Inc. New Media, left that position in February to become a contributor to various Time publications. Both departures were portrayed as voluntary, but media observers have noted that they come shortly after Michael Pepe took the post of head of Time's newly created e-commerce division in January.
Time Inc. New Media officials were not immediately available for comment. Pepe told staffers in an internal e-mail that he "will be announcing a successor [to McCutcheon] shortly." He also praised McCutcheon's "intelligence, marketing savvy and willingness to take risks."
One of the original business-side employees at Time's Pathfinder Web project, McCutcheon had recently pushed the company in the direction of e-commerce and spearheaded licensing and distribution deals that have helped boost Time Inc. New Media's revenues. Under McCutcheon's tenure, for example, Time's popular People site was licensed exclusively to America Online, a deal worth millions, according to Time officials. Traffic has also been up; Time Warner's online properties have recently entered Media Metrix's top ten visited sites.
Despite McCutcheon's efforts to forge a consensus around e-commerce, Time Inc. New Media continues to be a turbulent place. McCutcheon and Okrent represented Pathfinder's third regime since 1994, and last week a Wall Street Journal report gave credence to longstanding rumors that Time Warner is considering spinning all or some of its online properties into a separate company. The company is known to be sniffing around for various kinds of online properties but is, media insiders say, intimidated by the towering valuations of many of the Internet's best-trafficked companies.
Regardless of where McCutcheon ends up, she clearly retains warm feelings about the colleagues she is leaving behind. Her departing e-mail requested a going-away party that is "sentimental, lavish, and boozy -- sort of like an Irish wake without the actual corpse."