Photo credit Stefan Radtke
We magazine geeks are a little obsessed with Croton-on-Hudson resident David Granger. In nearly 19 years as editor-in-chief of Esquire, Granger turned an iconic-but-flagging brand into the quintessential modern men’s title and took innovative measures (including the first-ever augmented-reality cover) to prove the staying power of print. In the process, he helped Esquire nab 17 National Magazine Awards. “If I had to choose a legacy, it would be that I f----d with, and hopefully improved, the medium,” he says.
Granger’s Esquire redefined how we see the American male, concocting an entertaining mix of smart, sexy, boozy, stylish, hard-hitting topics in every issue. His devotion to old-school, deeply reported features earned adulation from his stable of writers. Every story matters to Granger, according to writer Tom Junod, one of his longtime collaborators. “David could smell ‘playing it safe’ like a bad egg,” he says. “He always hoped that you’d come back with something no one had ever done before.”
Granger personified his brand: He’s a man’s man with a penchant for swearing, a hankering for strong drinks, and a taste for tough-guy literature. He hangs out with Bill Murray, George Clooney, and Lance Armstrong. He favors dapper suits and a signature bald ’do — which he’s sported since Andre Agassi shaved his head. At the same time, says Junod, “David’s an emotionally and intellectually restless person who combines a fearsome instinctive critical intelligence with a bloody-knuckled work ethic.”
Granger’s next act may be his most intriguing yet. Earlier this year, after the 60-year-old was abruptly fired from Esquire — a corporate move that shocked the media world — Granger realized he could now edit the ending to his own story. Expect to see his transformational imprint on books and on “ideas that extend beyond the bounds of any individual medium,” he promises.
“I have the opportunity now to lead another amazing life, and it’s liberating,” he adds. “I can’t help but be f-----g grateful for it.”