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Time Warner Names Digitas Chief Laura Lang Head of Time Inc.

Time Warner Inc. named Laura Lang head of Time Inc., ending a nine-month search and tapping a digital-advertising executive to steer the magazine-publishing business amid intensifying online competition.

Lang, 56, has run Digitas, a digital-ad agency owned by Publicis Groupe SA, as chief executive officer since 2008 after joining the firm in 1999. She will start in her new role in January, Time Warner said today in a statement.

Lang, who will oversee magazines including Time, Fortune and Sports Illustrated, will work to reverse sales declines at the division as readers and advertisers are increasingly attracted to online publications. Time Inc. sales fell to $3.68 billion last year, accounting for 13 percent of New York-based Time Warner’s revenue.

“Time Inc. has amazing titles, really great content,” Lang said in an interview. “That’s what I was getting excited about. Great content matters, it always will.”

Even amid falling sales, Time Inc. has stemmed the decline in earnings. In the first nine months of this year, the unit’s profit rose 3.5 percent to $356 million as sales were little changed at $2.63 billion.

‘Define Publishing’

Prior to joining Digitas, Lang was president of ad-consultancy firm Marketing Corporation of America and an executive at Yankelovich Clancy Shulman. A graduate of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Lang sits on the boards of ad agency Vivaki, also owned by Paris-based Publicis, as well as VF Corp. and Benchmark Electronics Inc.

Lang, who has no experience leading magazines, said the disruptive effects of digital media have fundamentally altered the nature of publishing.

“As to my lack of publishing background, I say, ‘Define publishing,’” she said. “In the broader sense at Digitas, I’ve been very involved in media and publishing.”

Lang cited the work her agency has done with advertisers to create and manage content for their brands, whether on the Web, or social-networking services Facebook and Twitter.

“I’ve always been about how will digital be transforming established businesses, and that’s what I’ve done,” she said.

Predecessor’s Exit

Lang is replacing Jack Griffin, who left in February, less than six months after being appointed to the top job. His “leadership style and approach did not mesh with Time Inc. and Time Warner,” Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes said in a memo to employees at the time.

Griffin, the former head of Meredith Corp.’s publishing division, defended his leadership, saying at the time that his exit “clearly was not about management style or results.” In September, he founded Empirical Strategic Advisors, a media and technology consulting firm with offices in New York and Boston.

After Griffin’s departure, Bewkes installed a triumvirate to run the division, composed of editor-in-chief John Huey, Chief Financial Officer Howard Averill and general counsel Maurice Edelson.

Lang, who will move from Boston to New York for the job, said she met with Bewkes recently.

“We had great conversations and we see the world in a very similar way,” she said. “We both have the same sense of the assets of Time Inc.”

Lang said she isn’t aware of any plan to separate Time Inc. from the parent company. “My mission is to become part of Time Inc. and push the business forward,” she said.

Time Warner, which also owns Warner Bros. studios and Turner Network Television, rose 4.3 percent to $34.82 at the close in New York. The stock has gained 8.2 percent this year.

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