Happy Groundhog Day.
In February 2000, when I showed up for my first day of work at Fortune as an assistant managing editor, the title’s parent company, Time Warner, was then in the early throes of a sale. The previous month, the media giant had announced, with great fanfare, that an upstart Internet service provider based in Northern Virginia would be appending its initials to the front of the Time Warner name in a monumental (and immediately controversial) corporate marriage—a deal that would close a year later, on January 11, 2001.
That was by no means the first fusing (or unfusing) the company had undergone. The infamous merger of AOL with Time Warner had followed another enormous one, almost eleven years to the day. That was when Time Warner itself had come into being, with the corporate handfasting of Time Inc. and Warner Communications.
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AOL Time Warner, of course, would later divide itself, leaving Time Inc., Fortune’s parent, with Time Warner—until 2014, that is, when Time Warner ditched its glossy magazine titles altogether. (That move left Time Warner without a Time Inc., or a Time magazine, or anything “Time”-related other than a word on its letterhead.) As for Time Inc., it once again stood on its own, as it did in the beginning, when Henry Luce and Briton Hadden founded their one-magazine magazine company in 1922.
Yesterday, change came once more, as Time Inc. became no more. Its storied titles, including Fortune, are now part of Meredith, a media company based in Des Moines—and the captains of our new corporate parent were here in New York to greet us with broad smiles, welcome gifts, and optimism.
I bring this up because it’s good, every once in a while, to be reminded of the eternalness of change—and why it’s healthy for the soul. Essential, even.
Change, in general, is as good for companies as it is for people, I would say. It’s as good for brands as it is for companies, for leaders as it is for brands. Sure, there are exceptions—and mighty ones at that: Some transformations turn out to be far less favorable than hoped. But the process of evolution is as sustaining for corporate life as it is inevitable.
Fortune first published the Fortune 500 in the year 1955. Out of that original tally of 500 companies, the definitive ranking of the largest (by revenue) in the country, just 62 remain on the roster today. Since that year, 2,132 companies have cycled on and off the list. Few would suggest, I suspect, that corporate enterprise in America is less vibrant or robust today than it was in the 1950s. It’s different, certainly—but not weaker. The drive to form companies and build them is as strong today as ever.
Over the years, I worked for five of the 18 top editors of Fortune before becoming one myself last year. I have seen legendary writers and editors come and go, populating the greatest titles in journalism. When I see their bylines, or their familiar faces at events, I can’t help but think of them as Fortune-ites: not just fabled veterans, but longstanding members of the tribe. Perhaps that’s because there is something eternal in the brand that mirrors the constancy of change. Some will snicker if I call it a soul, but it’s hard, when you’re here—with so many outstanding, big-hearted colleagues—to believe Fortune doesn’t have one.
And so, on this second day of a new era, I hold out my arms and welcome change—I welcome the invigoration of new names and faces and ideas to Fortune’s living soul. I’m not going to say I didn’t feel sadness watching the venerable Time Inc. signs come off the building. But watching the Meredith ones go up brought the whiff of new life, too—a sense that the corporate season had once again changed, as it should. As it must.
Punxsutawney Phil’s shadow be damned. I smell spring in the air.
This essay appears in today’s edition of the Fortune Brainstorm Health Daily. Get it delivered straight to your inbox.