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Dan Wakeford named US Weekly editor in chief after disastrous stint at failed startup the Messenger

Dan Wakeford — most recently the top editor of failed news startup the Messenger — has been tapped to be US Weekly’s editor in chief, the celebrity glossy said Tuesday.

Wakeford, also a former editor in chief of People magazine, left the Messenger in January after it was shut down after less than a year by its owner, Jimmy Finkelstein.

Wakeford replaces Maria Fontoura, who had taken the helm last summer after stints at Rolling Stone, OK!, Men’s Journal and Maxim.

According to sources, Fontoura was abruptly fired Tuesday and Wakeford’s name was “on her office door within minutes.”

Wakeford, 49, is a big hire for US Weekly, the embattled celebrity and entertainment glossy, which insiders said runs on a “barebones staff and budget.”

Dan Wakeford has been named editor in chief of US Weekly, the company announced Tuesday. NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images
Dan Wakeford has been named editor in chief of US Weekly, the company announced Tuesday. NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

At the Messenger, Wakeford caught heat for his hands-off approach running the 300-person newsroom, as well as his bloated salary that was in the ballpark of $900,000, as reported by The Post.

“People did not know he was British,” said a Messenger staffer, who said the first time they heard Wakeford speak was during an emergency meeting shortly before the company was closed.

A source close to Wakeford denied that he was absent and that he had a fraught relationship with Finkelstein, who “restricted” him from holding meetings and sending out staff emails to boost company culture and morale.

A source close to US Weekly told The Post that Wakeford is going to be in for a big shock when he goes to US Weekly, as the publication is run very lean and in a “hands-on” manner.

“He will need to turn up in the office,” a source said, adding, “They’re also cheap.”

The source said most top-level editors aren’t even making over $150,000.

Wakeford is tasked with growing the magazine’s editorial and digital reach. US Weekly
Wakeford is tasked with growing the magazine’s editorial and digital reach. US Weekly

US Weekly parent company a360media crowed about the hire in its press release, touting Wakeford’s past as editor in chief of People and editorial director of Entertainment Weekly — but leaving out his recent disastrous stint helming the Messenger.

“I am thrilled and honored to join such a trusted and iconic brand like Us Weekly,” said Wakeford. “I have always been passionate about telling compelling stories and connecting with readers on a deeper level. I look forward to working with the talented team at Us Weekly to deliver zeitgeist defining content that engages, entertains and resonates with audiences across multiple platforms.”

A rep for a360media did not immediately return requests for comment.

According to the company, Wakeford will oversee all editorial content and strategy for the beleaguered US Weekly, including its continued expansion into digital.

Finkelstein had lured Wakeford and a slew of other experienced journalists with fat salaries with hopes of building a news organization that could rival the likes of the New York Times, but it cratered as the organization was unable to build up a following and advertising revenue.

Staffers from the Messenger — including Wakeford — were left flat-footed and let go without any severance pay or benefits when the organization folded.