“It Was Like You Were Either Being Sent To The Gas Chambers, Or You’d Get To Live Another Day.”
With sale looming, half of Surfer's staff is cut, as The Enthusiast Network reels.
Tragic news in the world of surf media.
The Enthusiast Network, which comprises a multitude of action sports publications, including Surfer Magazine, Transworld Skate/Snow, and formerly Surfing Magazine, is in the process of being purchased by American Media.
American Media is a publishing group that owns titles such as Men’s Journal, Radar, US Weekly and more famously The National Enquirer.
According to sources within the Carlsbad complex, all TEN employees received an email on Tuesday calling for a mandatory meeting on Jan 31. Employees were given one of two time-slots, which were not in relation to the publication they worked for but rather whether or not they would be fired.
The email did not preemptively disclose which time slot was for the layoffs and which was for the to-be-retained employees, so rumors ran amok. Was 11:30 the good group to be in, or the bad one?
One TEN worker summed up the office atmosphere thusly:
“It was like you were either being sent to the gas chambers, or you’d get to live another day.”
All up, more than 50 percent of TEN’s staff was culled, which was reportedly part of the deal between TEN and AM. In other words, if TEN wanted to be bought by AM, they’d have to slash a significant number of employees first.
Included in the termination was the renowned South African photojournalist, and the magazine's longtime Photo Editor, Grant Ellis, who spent nearly two decades under the Surfer Mag banner, and worked through its most successful years, often putting out 200+ page mags each month through the mid-'00s.
Writer Ben Waldron, sales manager Brent Reilly, and long-time publisher Tony Perez were also reportedly laid off from Surfer’s staff, along with dozens more employees from TEN’s other publications.
“It was shocking,” said a source from the Carlsbad office. “It was like the whole building got the air sucked out of it.”
This is not the first time TEN has issued massive layoffs to its publications. In February of 2016, TEN released a sizable portion of its staff, including the complete dissolution of the 50+ year publication Surfing Magazine.
This all points to the same inherent issue: it’s incredibly difficult to monetize media in today’s digital marketplace. According to a source within TEN, they had only one publication in the black for 2018, and the company lost more than a million dollars overall.
TEN’s only other profitable entity is the Dew Tour, whose contract is set to run out soon with little chance of a re-up
So what might American Media see in TEN, from a financial standpoint? According to our source, AM has no interest in investing any money into the business. Apparently it’s a “slash and burn” acquisition, with AM buying TEN for cheap and making a quick buck by selling the action sports titles individually.
In the past people have tried to buy Surfer Mag and make it a privately-owned publication, but TEN reportedly wouldn’t budge—the magazine has often been referred to as the group's Crown Jewel and, wanting to maintain as much company value as possible while looking for a buyer, the company was obviously hesitant to sell off their most prized and iconic title.
With American Media poised to take over Surfer, and seeing as how they might be looking to sell off titles one by one, we wonder if some wealthy benefactor might swoop in and save “The Bible of Surfing” from the quicksand that is Corporate Media.