When the New York Post reported Wednesday that Time Inc. staffers had produced a cheesy goodbye video for outgoing CEO Rich Battista—complete with fellow execs standing atop their desks a la Dead Poets Society—I prayed to the content gods that this keepsake of corporate media groveling would be leaked.
On Thursday, like manna from heaven, a video meeting the description appeared on YouTube. The nearly 8-minute-long (!) sendoff toasts Battista, who has led the iconic publisher since the long-ago days of September 2016. During that time, Time Inc.’s legendary magazine brands have cut costs, lost talent, and struggled to stay relevant. Oh, and they were all sold. Battista and some top lieutenants will soon be axed as part of Meredith Corp.’s Koch-financed purchase of Time Inc., the Post reports. A few lucky execs, including our man of the hour, will be departing the media company with seven-figure severance packages. Tough break!
That the Time Inc. staffers in the video initially appear to be “in on the joke” doesn’t take away from the end product’s cringeworthiness. Coworkers testify that Battista is a media pioneer akin to Time founder Henry Luce! He’s the best CEO ever! One of the all-time great people! A guy who can really sing a power ballad! Then the jokiness falls away as people line up to testify with total seriousness about how Battista “turbocharged” their video efforts, was a leader in gender equality, and was a dream to work with. His kids even make a cameo.
But the pièce de résistance comes more than seven minutes in, when Time brass stand on desks and proclaim, “Oh Captain! My Captain!” It’s a touching sendoff for their boss of less than 16 months, I guess. But I can’t let go of the fact that Dead Poets Society does not include any golden parachutes. Robin Williams doesn’t leave with millions. Instead, the story ends with suicide, deception, and intellectual censorship. Even the Koch brothers can’t match that narrative arc.
But carpe diem, as they say. The next time you’re thinking of sending your colleagues a thank-you note, consider pivoting the idea to video. “If you ask anybody what they envy about Rich in this building,” Sports Illustrated Managing Editor Chris Stone says in one of the video’s legitimately funny moments, “I guarantee it’s more than just me that says, ‘Boy, I really wish it was me in that YouTube video.”
Same. Watch the full sendoff below: