Sauerberg, who will also retain his president title, will officially transition into the role in January.
S. I. Newhouse Jr., the current chairman, will become chairman emeritus.
When Sauerberg was promoted to the president role in 2010, Townsend was managing an executive shuffle. David Carey had just left to become president at Hearst Magazines, COO John Bellando was named CFO and Lou Cona became CMO.
But Sauerberg was tasked with moving Condé Nast into digital opportunities with a more purposeful strategic focus. And as he now takes over as CEO, the company can point to some success in this area. The digital audience shot up from 17.2 million to 87.3 million and digital revenues have doubled in the last five years, according to Condé Nast figures.
Last summer, Bellando and editorial director Thomas Wallace both left the company, David Geithner was brought on as the new CFO, and Sauerberg took over “all revenue generating activities”—a major expansion of his role.
Sauerberg hopes digital initiatives such as beefing up distribution of the company’s content on mobile and targeting younger readers will help spur growth in the coming years. “We’re digital first, mobile-led, and focused on millennials, whose spending power is increasing quickly,” Sauerberg tells The Wall Street Journal.
He also revealed to WSJ that the company expects to generate more than $1 billion in overall revenue in 2015, although it will be down, as it was last year. Profit margins will grow because of cost cutting.
Sauerberg joined Condé Nast in 2005 as executive vice president of consumer marketing. Before then, he was chief operating officer at Fairchild Publications which was owned by Advance and recently sold to Penske Media.