There are 48 floors in the time & life building in New York City, home of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S edit offices, and Nicholas Maxwell, SI's chief of production, has seen the view from most of them. When he first arrived in the U.S., in 1971, he checked into Time Inc.'s personnel department (22nd floor) and got a job as a mail clerk, which over the next couple of years took him to TIME magazine (24th, 25th and 26th floors), FORTUNE (18), LIFE (29, 30 and 31) and, yes, SI (19 and 20).
In 1974 he became a trainee in PEOPLE magazine's production department (29), worked briefly for LIFE production and then joined the company's magazine development group (37), working on so many experimental magazines—including REAL ESTATE and HOME OFFICE—and special issues of established magazines that he became a familiar figure in the lobby of the building, darting from one elevator bank to another. In April 1985 Maxwell became production manager of PICTURE WEEK, and two months ago he joined SI.
Maxwell's major concern is to make certain that each issue of SI closes on time so that the magazine reaches our readers when expected. This requires a combination of force and tact as he helps keep copy, photos and layouts flowing toward the presses. "I am the whip," Nick says.
Maxwell, 37, was born and raised in Saint Lucia, in the British West Indies; he is in the process of becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen. When he was 17, he moved to the French island of Martinique and took a job as a waiter and interpreter for a restaurant. Maxwell's mother spoke French, and Nick picked up the language as a teenager. "The waiters in the restaurant spoke only French, most vacationers only English," Maxwell says. "I would translate. You want a broiled lobster? I would order 'une langouste grillèe.' "
In 1970, four years after Maxwell arrived on the island, John Titman, then head of Time Inc.'s personnel department, visited Martinique. "I spoke French so fluently, John couldn't believe I wasn't French," says Maxwell. "My mother and sister had moved to Brooklyn, which is where John lived, and he offered to hand-deliver a letter for me."
Titman told him to drop by the Time & Life Building if he ever decided to move to this country, and, luckily for us, Nick did just that.
Maxwell and his wife, Laurence, now live in Brooklyn, too. They have four children. Clearly, production has gone well.
Production chief Maxwell: force and tact.