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Maer Roshan is out at Los Angeles magazine.
The editor-in-chief has been ousted after more than four years in the job, during which time he steered a major rebrand of the publication through buzzy, high-impact cover stories and features while expanding the title’s social media footprint.
Roshan’s exit comes directly on the heels of massive shifts on the business side. In December, Los Angeles was acquired by power lawyers and business leaders Mark Geragos and Ben Meiselas through their newly launched Engine Vision Media in a deal that also covered Pasadena and Orange Coast magazines. At the time, the pair said they planned to invest in the titles and “provide the resources needed to take them to the next level,” per Geragos.
The deal was welcomed as a shot in the arm by Los Angeles staff, which had been decimated in recent years amid challenges to the media industry. (Los Angeles magazine drew 280,900 unique monthly visitors to its website in February, per Comscore data, up from the same month a year earlier. By the same metric, local rivals like alt-weekly brand LA Weekly saw 974,000 monthly visitors and news site LAist had 843,000 visitors in February.)
After working remotely during the pandemic, Los Angeles staff relocated in January to the Geragos & Geragos offices located in a former fire station at 644 S. Figueroa St., known as Engine Co. No. 28 in downtown Los Angeles. It was expected that they would add staff as its owners looked to expand digital presence and live events.
Then, less than three weeks ago, Engine Vision Media confirmed it was well on its way by adding 15 new positions in editorial, digital and sales, leading with the hiring of Christopher Gialanella to serve as president and publisher of Los Angeles, Pasadena, Orange Coast and So Cal Design magazines. Gialanella, a veteran media executive, spent more than 20 years with Modern Luxury in a variety of positions, most recently as publisher of Riviera, Modern Luxury Palm Springs and Interiors California and before that, as group publisher for Angeleno and Los Angeles Confidential.
THR reached out to Geragos and Gialanella and did not hear back prior to publication. (TheWrap earlier reported Roshan’s exit on Tuesday.)
Reached by phone Tuesday afternoon, Roshan called the decision “mystifying,” one he only learned about hours before. He believed the new owners to be “ecstatic,” buoyed by “the great editorial progress we’ve made in the more than four and a half years that I’ve been here.” Roshan helped broker the pact with Engine Vision after being tasked by Detroit-based Hour Media, the previous owners of Los Angeles, to help them find new owners.
“If you follow the critical appraisal and the social numbers, we’ve made huge gains,” Roshan explains, citing such stories as the Yashar Ali exposé penned by Peter Kiefer, a cover story with supermodel Paulina Porizkova about aging in Hollywood by Benjamin Svetkey, a feature about Brentwood’s place in the culture wars by Max Kutner, a podcast by Andrew Goldman featuring Chaka Khan that made international headlines, and the current cover on the murder of a 10-year-old in Antelope Valley by Jason McGahan. (Kiefer and Svetkey are former THR staffers.) “These are the stories that Los Angeles magazine should be covering, especially when you consider that five years ago we were known for our Best Parks issue.”
Roshan said a lot of big decisions have been made in recent weeks under the new ownership and that there seems to have been “a difference of opinion” that escalated quickly on a variety of matters from staffing and wages to the direction of the magazine.
It is expected that Los Angeles may soon lean more toward celebrity-friendly covers and lifestyle coverage in the vein of Angeleno and Los Angeles Confidential, something that would be in Gialanella’s wheelhouse.
“Where I wanted to take this magazine was not Angeleno. Los Angeles, as a city, is one of the most powerful and important cities in the world, and the magazine that serves that audience and tells the story of this city should reflect that,” Roshan explained. “I feel frustrated because L.A. magazine should be one of the biggest magazines in America, and we were on our way. To us, it was a great success that we were able to achieve what we did on almost no money, with eight staffers, no publicist and no real corporate backing.”
Per a source, the staff that remains is in shock. “Most of the people there have worked with Maer for four years and they are very shaken up and don’t know what’s coming next,” says the source, with another adding that Roshan has known much of the staff for upwards of 15 years. “It’s pretty clear, though, to the staff that this is a money decision in terms of advertising revenue. They want more events and more celebrities, and they want to make the magazine more commercial.”
While he’s still processing the news, Roshan knows that he’s not ready to say goodbye to media. Roshan’s résumé includes high-profile editorial positions for Tina Brown at Talk, at New York under Kurt Andersen, and as founder or editor (or both) of such titles as FourTwoNine, Radar, Radaronline.com, TheFix.com and NYQ. He’s written for The New York Times, The New Republic, The Advocate, Details, Harper’s Bazaar and THR.
“There’s a lot of stuff I want to do,” he notes of a list that includes books, podcasts, special projects, digital and surely more editor gigs. “I’m not worried about me. I’m more worried about my staff because they are awesome.”
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