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More Cuts To Come At Forbes?

mcnamee.pngIt’s been a tough year at Forbes. The media company, which owns Forbes magazine, Forbes.com and a handful of other magazines like Forbes Woman, has already gone through two rounds of layoffs across the business and editorial staffs and more bad news might be on the way.

The New York Post‘s Keith Kelly reported today that Elevation Partners’ co-founder Roger McNamee has stepped down from Forbes’ board and will be replaced by Bre Pearlman, who has “a reputation as an aggressive cost-cutter.”

McNamee (left) was the main driver behind Elevation’s purchase of a 40 percent stake in the Forbes family-owned company two and half years ago but, as Kelly pointed out, his departure from the board may show that the company’s chance for growth is slim.

We’re hearing that the mood within the Forbes editorial offices — which recently completed a merger between the online and magazine staffs — is nervous, which former Forbes staffer Peter Kafka has also reported.

Update: A Forbes publicist sent us the memo that went out to staff today from Steve Forbes.

“We fully understand the concerns that the present difficult environment causes,” the memo said. “We want to thank everyone for their hard work. We profoundly believe that the steps being taken, not only short-term painful ones, but also new growth initiatives, will make Forbes stronger than ever when economic recovery comes.”

The full memo after the jump


McNamee spoke to Kelly via email about the decision to leave Forbes’ board, admitting that “the deterioration in the advertising market late last year caused Forbes and Elevation to agree that we could no longer count on Forbes.com to offset declines in print. We agreed to a strategy shift from investment in the Web to aggressive cost cutting.”

“When we invested, we were convinced that online advertising could more than outperform any decline in print. That view has proved to be wrong for reasons that are no fault of Forbes,” McNamee added.

Here’s the internal memo that went out to Forbes staffers today:

From: Forbes, Steve
Sent: Friday, May 15, 2009 3:23 PM
Subject: ALL HANDS MEMO FROM STEVE FORBES

Various media outlets today noted that Roger McNamee of Elevation Partners has stepped off the Forbes Media board and that this portends an imminent round of additional cuts. It does not.

Cutting costs has been necessary at Forbes and virtually every other company in response to the unprecedented economic downturn. We are doing what is necessary for Forbes to get through these difficult times. It is critical to remember, however, that while coping with current conditions, we are also pursuing new initiatives, the latest being ForbesWoman. We are actively examining a number of other new ventures.

Forbes continues to outperform its competitors. The brand is stronger today worldwide than ever before. In a few days I am going to India for the launch of Forbes India, our eleventh local edition and the first of its kind in India. No other business brand has a larger worldwide audience offline and online. At 5.4 million, readership of Forbes Magazine itself is at an all-time high, and Forbes Digital attracts some 40 million unique visitors each month.

Let us also remember that in 2001-2002 in the aftermath of the tech bubble bursting, and particularly after 9/11, magazine advertising plunged. We had to take many painful steps at that time as well. There were many who said we should shut down the then money-losing Forbes.com. We did not, and it went on to great success. Now, just as then, we are contending with crisis but also planting seeds of our future success.

As for the Forbes Media board, several Elevation partners have rotated on it. Bret Pearlman has been involved from day one. And Roger McNamee is still very much engaged with the company, particularly web strategy and technology.

We fully understand the concerns that the present difficult environment causes. We want to thank everyone for their hard work. We profoundly believe that the steps being taken, not only short-term painful ones, but also new growth initiatives, will make Forbes stronger than ever when economic recovery comes.

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