CEO-verwhelming – Brief Article
The openly gay chief of Cahners publishing house tells the secrets of his success
“You know, I’ve opened a lot of people’s eyes in my life because they were very surprised to find out I’m gay,” says Marc Teren, the 43-year-old newly appointed chief executive officer of Cahners Business Information, a company that includes Variety, Publishers Weekly, Interior Design magazine, and hundreds of trade publications and Web sites in its portfolio.
People may be surprised when they learn that Teren is gay, but they seem to get over it quickly. This Harvard MBA’s career trajectory has been nothing short of meteoric. His latest appointment, though, does more than make an already stellar resume shine brighter. It establishes Cahners as one of the biggest U.S. companies to be headed by an openly gay CEO and, most important, serves as testament to an increasingly open-minded corporate world.
“It’s a significant step and career opportunity,” Teren acknowledges of his new job, which includes overseeing 3,800 employees. “But it just so hap. pens that I’m gay.” His sexual orientation, he insists, “has neither helped nor hindered” his professional career.
A handsome, articulate, all-American man, Teton cut his business teeth soon after graduating from Santa Clara (Calif.) University in 1979. He and a business partner opened Chuck E. Cheese’s franchises in Minneapolis-St. Paul and the surrounding area before branching out into child care and other businesses. In 1990. well into his career, Teren went back to school, earning his MBA from Harvard Business School in 1992.
Soon after graduation the intrepid Teren was hired by the Walt Disney Co., where he worked for five years in Los Angeles with such industry legends as Michael Eisner. Michael Ovitz, and Jeffrey Katzenberg. He joined Disney as the director of business development for Disney Consumer Products North America. Teren was responsible for the development and business of Disney interactive products. This included determining whether the company should license the manufacturing of these products to other companies or develop them in-house. The company’s decision to “go vertical”–to go with in-house development–helped catapult the Disney brand into the higher echelons of digital entertainment, and Teren became vice president of Disney Interactive Entertainment.
In 1997 he left Disney for the Washington Post Co., where he spearheaded new media and electronic publishing projects, running Washingtonpost.com and Newsweek.com as well as forging and publicizing the company’s powerful alliance with MSNBC. “At the Post I learned the role of publisher with one of the best in the world: Don Graham,” Teren says.
By all accounts, Teren did remarkably well in Washington. “He took our Web site from a rudimentary stage to a finished, polished product,” says Washington Post publisher Don Graham, adding that Teren helped raise traffic on the paper’s site from 13 million page, views per month to 75 million.
Through all this success. Teren says. he neither hid nor advertised his sexual orientation. That is. until he met his partner, Peter Meachum, now 27 and an agent assistant at Innovative Artists. “Being open became very easy when I met Pete,” he says. “Now I had the same thing to share with coworkers that anybody else in a relationship has. It grounded me and made me more comfortable in who I am.”
During his tenure at the Washington Post Co., he and Meachum decided to have a commitment ceremony, and he told everyone in the office. The company, in turn, held a big bash in the couple’s honor. “Marc was greatly respected by the people who worked for him,” Graham says. “They wanted to show him this day meant a great deal to them too.” The company president also showed his support, taking Teren around the executive offices to announce the news. “Word spread quickly, even to other divisions,” Teren remembers. “The impact was so positive. This really provided a recognition that employees were working in a safe, comfortable environment that respected diversity.”
When Teren, who wears a wedding band, was interviewed for his current job by Crispin Davis, CEO of Cahners’s parent company, Reed Elsevier, he was asked how his wife felt about the prospect of moving to New York City. “I told him I was in a committed relationship with a man,” Teren says. “And he said, `Oh, I didn’t realize. Well, how does he feel about it?’ Just like that, without skipping a beat.” Then, when Davis offered to meet Meachum, “that told me all I needed to know,” Teren adds.
Today, sitting in his rented apartment on New York’s upper west side (he is searching for a home to buy), Teren reiterates that it is Iris experience and acumen that got him to where he is today. “I will go on … in my career to more significant opportunities, and I expect that being gay isn’t going to get in the way,” he says. “Nor will it be qualifier.”
He doesn’t chalk up proposed changes at the company–he is helping roll out a domestic-partner benefits plan–to his being gay either. “If [being gay] has some impact inside our company, or outside, that’s great,” he says. “But it’s a totally unintended consequence.”
Kirby is a frequent contributor to The New York Times.
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