In 1967, a 20-year-old Jann S. Wenner dropped out of the University of California Berkeley to start a quirky rock-music-oriented biweekly called Rolling Stone—and changed American culture. Treating the interests of America’s increasingly vocal youth with seriousness unknown before, Rolling Stone spoke to—and for—an entire generation. Throughout its illustrious history, Wenner’s commitment to quality journalism has kept Rolling Stone fresh and dynamic—the magazine’s success has proved a new readership is always ready to respond to definitive music coverage, provocative interviews, award-winning photography and important investigative and political reporting. The magazine has won 14 National Magazine Awards for General Excellence, Design, Photography, Visual Excellence, Specialized Journalism, Feature Writing, and Reporting. Today, Rolling Stone continues to reign at the forefront of American journalism, and with 12 million readers it serves as the ultimate source for music information and popular-culture trends.
Some of Rolling Stone’s most distinguished literary accomplishments reflect Wenner’s hands-on approach to publishing. Wenner edited Hunter S. Thompson’s masterpiece of gonzo journalism, “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail,” as well as Tom Wolfe’s articles on the early days of the U.S. space program, which evolved into the acclaimed book “The Right Stuff.” He also supervised the editing of Wolfe’s scabrous novel “Bonfire of the Vanities” as it appeared in its early, serialized version in Rolling Stone. Wenner’s ability to seek out extraordinary literary talents has brought other acclaimed writers to the magazine, including P.J. O’Rourke, Timothy Crouse, Cameron Crowe, Howard Kohn, Tim Cahill, Joe Eszterhas, Greil Marcus, Charles M. Young, Mikal Gilmore, Chris Heath, Kurt Loder and Anthony DeCurtis.
Jann S. Wenner in his Rolling Stone
office at 625 Third Street in San Francisco’s South of Market District. 1971, San Francisco. Photograph by Annie Leibovitz
Wenner co-edited “Gonzo: The Life of Hunter S. Thompson,” published by Little, Brown in 2007. The book offers an unflinching history of the writer whom Wenner dubbed “the DNA of Rolling Stone.”
Wenner’s publishing success lies in his intuitive understanding of the changing lifestyles of his readers. In 1977, he founded Outside, America’s first contemporary outdoor magazine. Wenner sold the magazine two years later to another publisher.
In 1985, in partnership with Lorimar Telepictures, Wenner purchased Us magazine from the McFadden Publishing. In 1989, he assumed total ownership of the title and repositioned it as Us The Entertainment Magazine. Wenner successfully reinvented the title into a cutting-edge entertainment source and the dominant voice of young Hollywood. The magazine features intimate celebrity interviews with award-winning journalists and lush portfolios by esteemed photographers. In March 2000, Us made the transition from a monthly to a weekly. In 2001, Disney became an investor in Us. Most recently, in August 2006, Wenner bought out Disney and now owns 100% of the magazine. Times are good at Us Weekly, with the magazine currently drawing 11.7 million readers every week.
In April 1992, Wenner launched Men’s Journal, targeting active men interested in participatory sports, travel and adventure. In 1995, Men’s Journal was awarded the National Magazine Award for General Excellence and in 1998 for Personal Service. Men’s Journal’s popularity is growing rapidly, and it currently has 3.2 million readers.
In August 1993, Wenner premiered Family Life, a magazine for parents who want to be actively involved in creating happy and fulfilling lives for their young children. In March 1995, Wenner sold Family Life to another publisher.
With over 27 million readers of his company’s three titles, Wenner has achieved extraordinary success in the publishing world has been acknowledged through numerous awards. In April 1997, Wenner became the youngest inductee to the American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME) Hall of Fame. In 1994, Wenner was named Publishing Executive of the Year by Adweek, a leading industry trade publication. In March 2004, Wenner was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with a Lifetime Achievement Award in the non-performer category.
In addition to his publishing work, Wenner devotes himself to several important causes. He is chairman of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation, Inc., a nonprofit organization that honors artists and music. In September 1995, Wenner presided over the opening of the stunning $100 million Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Museum in Cleveland, Ohio, designed by world-renowned architect I.M. Pei. The ultimate shrine to rock & roll, the museum had over one million visitors in its first year. Wenner continues to co-host the annual induction dinner each year, one of the most noteworthy events in the music industry.
Wenner is the father of six children. He resides in New York City.