Jann Wenner

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Jann Wenner
Jann Wenner TribFest 22 Austin Texas.jpg
Wenner in 2022
Born
Jann Simon Wenner

(1946-01-07) January 7, 1946 (age 78)
New York City, U.S.
Spouse
Jane Schindelheim
(m. 1967;div. 1995)
PartnerMatt Nye (1995–present)
Children6

Jann Simon Wenner [1] ( /ˈjɑːnˈwɛnər/ YAHNWEN-er; [2] born January 7, 1946) [3] is an American businessman who is a co-founder of the popular culture magazine Rolling Stone , and former owner of Men's Journal magazine. He participated in the Free Speech Movement while attending the University of California, Berkeley. Wenner, with his mentor Ralph J. Gleason, founded Rolling Stone in 1967. [4]

Contents

Later in his career, Wenner co-founded the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and founded other publications. As a publisher and media figure, he has faced controversy regarding Hall of Fame eligibility favoritism, the breakdown of his relationship with gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, and criticism that his magazine's reviews were biased. [5]

Early life and career

Wenner was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, the son of Sim and Edward Wenner. [6] He grew up in a secular Jewish family. [7]

His parents divorced in 1958, and he and his sisters, Kate and Merlyn, were sent to boarding schools. He completed his secondary education at the Chadwick School in 1963 and went on to attend the University of California, Berkeley. Before dropping out of Berkeley in 1966, Wenner was active in the Free Speech Movement and produced the column "Something's Happening" in the student-run newspaper, The Daily Californian . [8]

With the help of his mentor, San Francisco Chronicle jazz critic Ralph J. Gleason, Wenner landed a job at Ramparts , a high-circulation muckraker, where Gleason was a contributing editor and Wenner worked on the magazine's spinoff newspaper. [9]

Media industry

In 1967, Wenner and Gleason founded Rolling Stone magazine in San Francisco. To get the magazine started, Wenner borrowed US$7,500 (equivalent to $65,823in 2022) from family members and from the family of his soon-to-be wife, Jane Schindelheim. [4]

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Wenner played an integral role in popularizing writers such as Hunter S. Thompson, Ben Fong-Torres, Paul Nelson, Greil Marcus, Dave Marsh, Grover Lewis, Timothy Crouse, Timothy Ferris, Joe Klein, Cameron Crowe, Joe Eszterhas, and P.J. O'Rourke. He also discovered photographer Annie Leibovitz when she was a 21-year-old San Francisco Art Institute student. Many of Wenner's proteges, such as Crowe, credit him with giving them their biggest breaks. Tom Wolfe recognized Wenner's influence in ensuring that his first novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities , was completed: "I was absolutely frozen with fright about getting it done and I decided to serialize it and the only editor crazy enough to do that was Jann." [10]

In 1977, Rolling Stone shifted its base of operations from San Francisco to New York City. [11] The magazine's circulation dipped briefly in the late 1970s and early 1980s as Rolling Stone responded slowly in covering the emergence of punk rock and again in the 1990s, when it lost ground to Spin and Blender in coverage of hip hop. Wenner hired former FHM editor Ed Needham, who was then replaced by Will Dana, to turn his flagship magazine around, and by 2006, Rolling Stone's circulation was at an all-time high of 1.5 million copies sold every two weeks. In May 2006, Rolling Stone published its 1000th edition with a holographic, 3-D cover modeled on The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover. [12]

Wenner has been involved in the conducting and writing of many of the magazine's Rolling Stone Interviews. His interview subjects have included Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, and Barack Obama for the magazine during their election campaigns and in November 2005 had an interview with U2 rock star Bono, which focused on music and politics. [13] Wenner's interview with Bono received a National Magazine Award nomination.

Rolling Stone and Wenner are chronicled in three books, Gone Crazy and Back Again by Robert Sam Anson, Rolling Stone: The Uncensored History by Robert Draper, and Sticky Fingers:The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine by Joe Hagan. Robin Green's memoir The Only Girl covers the time she worked at Rolling Stone. [14]

Wenner founded the magazine Outside in 1977; where William Randolph Hearst III and Jack Ford both worked before Wenner sold it a year later. He also briefly managed the magazine Look and, in 1993, started the magazine Family Life. In 1985, he bought a share in Us Weekly , followed by a joint purchase of the magazine with The Walt Disney Company the following year. The magazine made the transition from a monthly to a weekly in 2000. [15] In August 2006, Wenner bought out Disney's share to consolidate 100% ownership. [16]

From 2004 to 2006, Wenner contributed approximately US$63,000 (equivalent to $91,453in 2022) to Democratic candidates and liberal organizations. [17]

In September 2016, Advertising Age reported that Wenner was in the process of selling a 49% stake in Rolling Stone to Singaporean company BandLab Technologies. The new investor would have no direct involvement in the editorial content of the magazine. [18] In October 2016, Wenner started publishing Glixel, a video games-based website. [19]

In September 2017, Wenner Media announced that the remaining 51% of Rolling Stone was up for sale. [20] That share was bought by Penske Media Corporation, who later acquired the remaining stake from BandLab. [21]

In 2022, Little, Brown and Company published Wenner's memoir, Like a Rolling Stone. [22]

Controversy

Hunter S. Thompson

Hunter S. Thompson was to provide Rolling Stone coverage for the 1976 presidential campaign that would appear in a book published by the magazine. Reportedly, as Thompson was waiting for a $75,000 advance check to arrive, he learned that Wenner had canceled the assignment without telling him.

Wenner then asked Thompson to travel to Vietnam to report on what turned out to be the final moments of the Vietnam War. Thompson accepted and arrived with the country in chaos, just as the United States was preparing to evacuate and other journalists were scrambling to find transportation out of the region. Thompson's story about the fall of Saigon would not be published in Rolling Stone until ten years later. Thompson contributed far less frequently to the publication in later years. [23]

Hootie and the Blowfish review

Wenner fired rock critic Jim DeRogatis in 1996 after DeRogatis delivered a negative review for an album by the then-popular band Hootie and the Blowfish. Wenner pulled DeRogatis' review from the magazine. Asked by the New York Observer if Wenner was a fan of Hootie and the Blowfish, DeRogatis responded that Wenner "is a fan of any band that sells eight million records." Wenner fired DeRogatis the next day. [24]

Sticky Fingers

In June 2017, Wenner cut ties with Joe Hagan, the biographer he had commissioned to write his biography, Sticky Fingers , calling the book Hagan produced "deeply flawed and tawdry, rather than substantial". [1] [25] Hagan had been working closely with Wenner on the book since 2013, and Sticky Fingers was released in October 2017. [26] [27] [28] [29]

New York Times interview

In September 2023 Wenner was interviewed by the New York Times' David Marchese about his book The Masters: Conversations with Dylan, Lennon, Jagger, Townshend, Garcia, Bono, and Springsteen and its basis of "seven white guys." Specifically, Wenner was asked about the book's introduction in which he claimed that black and female artists were "not in his zeitgeist." In response, Wenner said of female artists that 'none of them were as articulate enough on this intellectual level," to be included in his list of masterful musicians. Of black artists Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield, he said "they just didn’t articulate at that level". [30] In response, he was removed from the board of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation the day after the interview was published. [31] His comments were widely criticized. [32] He issued an apology statement through his publisher, Little, Brown and Company, on September 18, 2023. [33]

Personal life

In the summer of 1967, after Rolling Stone started, Wenner and Jane Schindelheim were married in a small Jewish ceremony. [34] Wenner and his wife separated in 1995, though Jane Wenner still remains a vice president of Wenner Media. She and Wenner have three sons. One of them, Edward Augustus (Gus), was made head of Wenner Media's digital operations in 2014. [35]

Since 1995, Wenner's domestic partner has been Matt Nye, a fashion designer. Together, Wenner and Nye have three children born via surrogate mothers. [36] [37]

Awards and honors

Notes

Select Rolling Stone Interview bibliography

See also

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