AUTUMN OF THEIR DISCONTENT: Watch out Jerry Levin. Take cover Thomas Middlehoff. Michael Wolff’s book is hitting bookstores on Nov. 4 — and it’s not a collection of his columns from New York magazine.
“All new material,” he said. Uh oh. Title, please? “Autumn of the Moguls.” Naturally. “It’s about the collapse of the media business.” Which means…? “Everybody. It’s the full cast of characters from [Michael] Eisner to [Jean Paul] Messier to the Time Warner dopes to Mel [Karmazin] and Sumner [Redstone] to the Bronfmans. The whole meshpucha.”
This story first appeared in the September 16, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
There’s also quite a bit on Rupert Murdoch, not all of it particularly friendly, despite the fact the book is being published by News Corp.’s Harper Collins. — Jacob Bernstein
NEW YORK’S OTHER STORY: While all eyes in the New York magazine sweepstakes have turned to the players with the largest egos and bankrolls, Texas Monthly owner Emmis Communications is leaning against bidding. Despite a reported meeting with Primedia executives, Emmis’ brain trust sees New York as a major fixer-upper, requiring millions in editorial and promotional investments on top of whatever price it would have to pay, according to several sources. “The buyer has to be prepared to spend $10, $20, $30 million more” than the $60 million to $80 million Primedia is said to be asking for New York, speculated one source close to Emmis. And Emmis is used to running monthlies, not weeklies. “Are they keen to do it? Sure. Are they prepared to leverage the farm? No,” the source said.
The Indianapolis-based Emmis already has a big potential acquisition on its plate in the form of a reportedly $800 million bid to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball franchise and several Fox TV stations from News Corp. While it covets a New York flagship so it could sell ads from coast-to-coast (it also owns Los Angeles magazine), “you don’t buy New York to give you a national network,” the source said. “That’s just a bonus.” Emmis and Primedia both declined comment.
Perhaps even less inclined to bid, but kicking the tires all the same, is the Tribune Co. of Chicago, which has been here before — it paid Primedia $35 million a year ago for Chicago magazine, beating out Emmis. Tribune executives declined comment, but at the time of the Chicago purchase, company officials said the magazine represented a one-off opportunity and that it wasn’t getting into the regional magazine business. But it already owns a controlled-circulation interiors glossy named Distinction on Long Island and is launching a Hollywood-ized clone under the same name in Los Angeles. Pair those with Chicago and potentially New York and the result is an upscale chain covering major markets. It doesn’t hurt that Tribune-owned Newsday is slowly creeping back into Queens.
“I think they would absolutely consider it,” said one source. “John Carroll, the publisher of Chicago, is highly regarded inside Tribune. They have a real magazine pro who can take a look at these numbers.” And editor Richard Babcock was one of Ed Kosner’s top lieutenants during his tenure as New York’s editor in the Eighties and early Nineties.
But “the Tribune Co. is notorious for not wanting to pay a lot of money for anything,” another source said. “I’m sure they’ve taken a look, but I don’t think they’re going to get into a bidding war if they’re going up against a bunch of rich guys.” — Greg Lindsay
ANOTHER CASE FOR SYNERGY: It’s known for its gritty breakdancing chic sneakers and racy Jenna Jameson ads, but now Pony is launching a magazine. On Dec. 12, the company will debut Juice Magazine, a quarterly lifestyle title with a print run of 80,000 that is geared towards 18- to 24-year-olds, skewing more male.
“It’s going to be a cross-pollination of urban and alternative culture and it’ll cover fashion, gaming, music and film,” said editor and publisher Kashy Khaledi, who formerly worked on Lollapalooza Magazine.
And, ahem, will it take advantage of the brand’s association with the Firm, the Los Angeles agency that bought out Michael Ovitz’s Artist Management, represents celebrities like Cameron Diaz and Usher and owns Pony?
“Absolutely, that’s one of the things that will make this magazine special. Everybody will bring something to the table, so the Firm will bring their resources in.”
Of course, using the talent to promote the magazine is not exactly unchartered territory — though it is territory littered with failure.
“There’s no situation which says we need to do anything. We want the magazine to stand independently on its own. — J.B.