NEW YORK — So long, Rosie.
This story first appeared in the September 19, 2002 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Rosie O’ Donnell announced on Wednesday that she would be severing ties with Gruner & Jahr, the magazine company that publishes her namesake women’s magazine. The magazine’s December issue will be its last.
The untimely demise of Rosie comes less than two years after the magazine was launched to tremendous fanfare. It was introduced after G+J folded McCalls — a struggling women’s magazine with a large readership — and teamed with Rosie O’Donnell to start a magazine in her name. Rosie, it was hoped, would ride the same wave that had been tapped by Oprah Winfrey with her magazine O, which was the most successful magazine launch in history.
While Rosie had a good first year, circulation began to drop precipitously in the first six months of 2002. For the period, Rosie’s average circulation barely met its rate base of 3.5 million, as single copy sales and subscriptions declined 14 percent and 12.3 percent, respectively. In June, the company fired the magazine’s day-to-day editor Cathy Cavender and replaced her with Susan Toepfer, a former deputy editor from People. A week later, they also removed Doug Turshen, the magazine’s creative director, and a close aide to O’Donnell.
O’Donnell was unhappy with Cavender’s replacement and became involved in a bitter dispute with the company over the magazine’s direction. An attempt by O’Donnell to have Toepfer removed was unsuccessful. In the summer, she retained litigation lawyer Mary Jo White, the former U.S. attorney who prosecuted John Gotti.
“My lawyers and I tried for several months to solve these problems,” said O’Donnell Wednesday, reading from a prepared statement.
“But we couldn’t. My integrity and name are at stake and that price is too high.”
While the magazine appears to be heading for extinction, the prospect of a lawsuit by G+J against O’Donnell remains. In a statement issued later Wednesday afternoon, the company said it was “considering” taking legal action against O’Donnell, whom it said “violated the conditions of our binding contract.”