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NOT THE MOST POPULAR GIRL: Primedia executives are already said to be disappointed by the level of interest that Condé Nast, Time Inc. and the other usual suspects have expressed in Seventeen, which apparently has a price tag of $300 million. The formal bidding process is just getting started, but according to a source close to the conversations, “no one appeared to be overly enthusiastic about buying the magazine. And they were surprised that Time Inc. hasn’t shown more interest, although I’m surprised that they thought Time Inc. would.”

The consensus front runner is still Condé Nast, although its executives have been very cool in back-channel discussions so far. “I guess Condé Nast didn’t foam at the mouth over it,” said the source. An executive at Condé Nast seconded the notion, saying the company’s interest was less than its previous overtures might suggest, though the source warned against second-guessing owner S.I. Newhouse, whose Advance Publications also owns WWD.

This story first appeared in the February 14, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Primedia ceo Tom Rogers may not be thrilled about it either. Two sources close to the process said the sale wasn’t his idea, but that of Primedia’s backers at buyout firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. A Primedia spokesman declined comment, as did spokespersons for Condé Nast and Time Inc.

Industry spectators remain convinced the magazine will eventually end up at the midtown offices of one of the other major publishers, and most likely at one that is already the owner of a teen book. While they might compete editorially, owning two books would result in efficiency gains and ad packaging deals. Of course, that was Primedia’s thinking when it acquired Teen as part of EMAP USA in 2001, which ultimately led to that magazine’s slow wasting away to today’s “special issues.” — Greg Lindsay

FEUD TWO: Another Italian brand is in a snit with Vogue. This time it’s Max Mara, which won’t be advertising in the magazine for spring. It’s the second time in less than 18 months the magazine has lost a major Italian brand; Giorgio Armani pulled his ads from Vogue last year because he felt the magazine wasn’t giving him enough credits. Surprise, Max Mara is said to feel the same way. “They’re not happy with the coverage they’re getting,” said a Vogue source. “It’s basically a repeat of the Giorgio Armani situation.”

Reached by phone on Thursday, Vogue publisher Tom Florio confirmed the absence of Max Mara this season, but said, “My sense is that we’ll be working together in the second half of the year.” He declined to comment on the reason for the withdrawal but added that Rinaldi, a brand owned by Max Mara, was advertising in Vogue’s Shape Issue this April.

A spokeswoman for Max Mara declined comment. — Jacob Bernstein

MATHER’S BEEN MADE OBSOLETE: What would fashion week be without a nasty defection from a consumer lifestyle magazine with a newly installed editor?

Men’s Journal fashion director John Mather quit Wednesday, shortly after, he said, new editor in chief Bob Wallace informed him the number of fashion pages in the magazine each month was being slashed to approximately two.

“I’m used to doing 15 pages a month or 10 pages a month,” he said. “But two pages a month? I have no interest.”

Wallace, meanwhile, was said to feel that the fashion spreads were out of sync with the rest of the magazine. Just don’t say he doesn’t care about fashion. “It in no way means we are abandoning our commitment to fashion. It’s just a change in personnel. I want to integrate [fashion] into the book with more real people and celebrities.”

But Mather continued to argue on Thursday that the change in approach wasn’t a problem, just a lack of pages. “I’ve used a lot of real people. I’ve shot Brendan Fraser. It can be very good. I did everything I said I would. I got them up in the big leagues. If they don’t want that, then fine.” — G.L. and J.B.

BRANCHING OUT: Nicky Hilton has found her latest gig. In addition to her handbag line with Samantha Thavasa, the hotel heiress has been doing fashion reporting for Entertainment Tonight. So how does combing the tents for scoops measure up to being able to sit pretty in the front row and enjoy the collections? “Look at my Manolos. They’re all ruined,” Hilton moaned after Narciso Rodriguez’s show on Tuesday. “People are aggressive!” — J.B.

LEVI’S IN THE SWIM: Levi’s is looking to turn up the heat on its Type 1 jeans. After introducing them to television audiences during the Super Bowl, the company plans to break a print campaign for the new style in Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue, due to hit newsstands Wednesday. The initial gatefold ad features model Liliana Dominguez in a pair of Type 1 jeans and a matching jacket, standing near a hubcap. It’s a reference to last fall’s “Chop Shop” Levi’s TV campaign. The ads were created by Bartle Bogle Hegarty.

Eight versions of the ad are to run in such publications as Sports Illustrated, Allure, Teen People, Details, FHM, Out, Spin, Vibe, GQ, Interview and Paper through December.

As reported, San Francisco-based Levi Strauss & Co. intends to spend all the Levi’s ad budget this year on the new jeans style. The Type 1 style is also the first test of Levi’s “consumer segmentation” strategy, in which the company will seek to sell varying versions of the same style of jeans at price points ranging from $30 to $100. — Scott Malone

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