When Steven Murphy was hired to be president of Rodale Inc. five years ago, the cuff-linked New York executive seemed an odd fit for the Emmaus (Pa.) publisher that began some 60 years ago by putting out journals on organic farming. As it turns out, the pairing has been anything but odd, as Murphy, 50 and now CEO, expertly helped Rodale exploit America's continuing health and dieting craze. Rodale ended 2004 with record magazine advertising revenues, one of the industry's hottest titles in Men's Health, and four best-selling books, including The Abs Diet and a cookbook spin-off of Rodale's popular The South Beach Diet.
The family-owned Rodale doesn't disclose profits. But it does say profits have nearly doubled since 2002; revenues in 2004 rose 12%, to $550 million. Among Murphy's achievements last year was adding two new titles to Rodale's stable of eight magazines with the launches of the upscale men's mag Best Life and Women's Health. Meantime, the abs-centric Men's Health closed out the year with more than 1,000 ad pages for the first time, up 14% over 2003.
Murphy has recruited big executive talent to the once-sleepy company, including former Sony Music Entertainment (SNE) Senior Vice-President Ken Citron, who became chief technology officer in May. "Change is imperative," says Murphy. So far, that mandate has brought a healthy glow to Rodale.