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ARTnews magazine gets new leadership, with a twist

originally posted by The Los Angeles Times
June 27, 2014

ARTnews, the venerated New York art magazine that has had a tough time in recent years adapting to digital media, is undergoing a leadership change — but one that comes with a business twist.

On Friday, the magazine announced that it will become part of Abbey House Group, a Polish art and media company. Abbey House will take on the name ARTnews starting July 1.

The magazine also announced that editor-in-chief Robin Cembalest will be stepping down after more than 20 years on the job.

She will be succeeded by Sarah Douglas, the current culture editor of the New York Observer, who will take over Thursday. At the Observer, Douglas helped to launch GalleristNY, a popular site for art-related news.

Cembalest will remain affiliated with the magazine on a consulting basis, leaders said.

In April, Milton Esterow, the magazine’s owner and longtime publisher, announced that he had sold the publication to Skate Capital, a private asset management firm owned by Russian financier Sergey Skaterschikov.

Skate was actually bidding for the magazine on behalf of Abbey House, according to Izabela Depczyk, an executive at Abbey House who is the magazine’s new publisher. The April announcement of the sale made no mention of Abbey House.

In a phone interview on Friday, Depczyk explained that Abbey House faced a number of legal restrictions due to its status as a publicly traded company in Poland.

“We’re very regulated and have to be very transparent,” she said. By working through Skate, which is privately held, the company was able to negotiate the purchase of the magazine in a more efficient manner.

“We’ve maintained a great relationship with Milton,” said Depczyk.

She said that Abbey House has acquired a 51% stake in the magazine for 2.2 million euros ($3 million.) She said the remaining 49% belongs to Skate but will eventually be sold to Abbey House.

ARTnews, established in 1902, has suffered from the weakening print advertising market. The new leaders are planning to launch a new website later this year that they hope will broaden the publication’s readership around the world.

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