Media Magnate Jann Wenner Puts His 22-Year-Old Son, Gus, In Charge
Gus, slated to graduate this weekend from Brown University, appears to have entered the Ivy League school at the standard 18 years of age. In his new job, Gus will manage 15 to 20 staffers, overseeing "all aspects of the dot-com -- edit, advertising, social, the whole picture," Jann Wenner told Adweek, an industry magazine. As he further explained,
Gus' ascent is all the more impressive given that Rolling Stone originally said the new web head would need "7+ years experience," according to a job posting on the Rolling Stone website. For Gus, that means that he should have been worrying about headlines and articles back in 2006, when he was probably too busy concerning himself with acne, braces and voice-cracking.
I didn't expect this. He was initially brought on to be an assistant to the chief digital officer [David Kang], and then David assigned him to this site redesign project. ... He's led that, and made substantial contributions, and really shown what a good leader he is and how deeply he understands it, and impressed me more than anyone."
Not surprisingly, media outlets have had a field day with this appointment. Gus "followed the traditional route to a perch atop the media hierarchy: playing in an alt-country band in college," noted Gawker writer Hamilton Nolan. (The younger Wenner has been in a band with the daughter of Demi Moore and Bruce Willis -- Scout Willis.) Talking Points Memo's New York-based national affairs reporter, Hunter Walker, tweeted the move, calling it "really, really gross." Writing for the San Jose Mercury News, Tony Hicks described the appointment as the "most blatant case of nepotism since ... ever."
The biggest names in the mainstream media do have a habit of keeping it in the family. The New York Times has been run by four generations of the Sulzberger family. And family members have regularly landed jobs on the editorial staff. News Corp. founder Rupert Murdoch appointed his son, James Murdoch, as his company's executive chairman back in 2007. Christina Huffington, daughter of Arianna Huffington, is a writer for The Huffington Post (which is owned by AOL). (After the News Corp. phone hacking scandal, James left the role last February to return to his job as the company's deputy chief operating officer.) But none of them started at the very top.
The history of Rolling Stone, it must be said, is a testament to what youth and inexperience can achieve. At just 20 years of age, Jann Wenner dropped out of University of California, Berkeley, in 1967 to found the rock and culture magazine. Since that time, Rolling Stone has won 14 National Magazine Awards for General Excellence. Wenner also owns US Weekly and Men's Journal.
While Rolling Stone staffers haven't yet shared their feelings publicly on this appointment, Jann Wenner was as thrilled as any father whose son has a fancy job lined up right after college graduation. "I am very proud," he told his employees in his memo, which was obtained by Gawker. And in speaking to Adweek, he also championed his son's musical chops. He even praised Gus for turning him on to "new stuff like The Strokes," the New York indy rock band that released its first album, "Is This It," back in 2001.
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Dan Fastenberg was most recently a reporter with TIME Magazine. Previously, he was a writer for the Thomson Reuters news service's Latin America desk. He was also a reporter and associate editor for the Buenos Aires Herald while living in South America.
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