STAYING WITH US: The first set of exits since Bonnie Fuller left Us Weekly occurred late last week, but it doesn’t look like the magazine is going to endure a mass exodus.

Fashion director Kelli Delaney has defected with her old boss and is expected to gain a high-level position at The Star, possibly as creative director. Going with her is senior photo editor Darren Walsh, who is expected to take a similar role at The Star.

This story first appeared in the July 8, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The exits have made quite an impression on Jann Wenner, who, according to two sources, has been offering contracts to several of the staff’s senior members as a way to keep the departures to a minimum. Between the money and the prospect of Janice Min — who had long played good cop — taking over, it appears to be working.

“It was quite a wide net,” said one source at the magazine regarding the contracts. “They went toward several people in the middle, which is not something that is done often. So it’s fairly happy around here.”

But the calls from Fuller also gave certain staffers considerable leverage to drive a hard bargain with the company. According to two sources at Us, the magazine spent the better part of last week in heated negotiations with news director and Hot Stuff gossip columnist Michael Lewittes, whose behavior occasionally seemed like the the celebrity behavior he chronicles in his column. “He was pacing around muttering about leaving,” said one staff member who witnessed his behavior. “It was confusing and I thought inappropriate behavior as he is one of the more senior people here.” But another source at the company did say that the contractual situation between him and Wenner was more complicated than people in the office were aware of and even the first source noted that Lewittes is “responsible for a lot of our scoops…He is valuable…and super nice.”

Still, the behavior was intense and at one point, a second source said, he even cleared out much of his office and put many of his belongings on the giveaway table. When a staff member asked him what he was doing, Lewittes said bye-bye and walked out.

A Wenner spokesman declined comment except to say,”We’ve played fair with him. He’s very good at what he does and we fully expect him to stay at Wenner Media.”

“I only comment about other people’s lives,” said Lewittes when reached for comment.

NOTED: Caroline Miller has poached another one from MBA Jungle: Larry Burstein is the new publisher of New York magazine, a Primedia spokesman said Monday. Burstein replaces Alan Katz, who left New York in early May to work on Condé Nast’s new shopping magazine for men, which is said to be called Cargo.

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