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NEW PAIR OF EYES: After months of collaboration among the top ranks at In Style in a drive to revitalize the magazine, Time Inc. is giving managing editor Charla Lawhon a promotion for her efforts. She has been named editor, the In Style Group, while Ariel Foxman, Time Inc. editor at large, will become the magazine’s managing editor. In her new role, Lawhon will oversee all editorial operations of the flagship title, the 14 international editions, instyle.com and specials including In Style Weddings and Makeovers. Foxman will oversee only the magazine and will report to Lawhon.
The move isn’t that surprising, given that Lawhon has been with the magazine since its test phase in 1993. But speculation on her future started to swirl after circulation began to stagnate. At the end of 2006, circulation flattened to 1.8 million, with newsstand sales falling to 765,937, a 8 percent drop compared with the year prior. It was then that Time Inc. brought in Foxman, who had worked at In Style in the late Nineties but left in 2003 to become editor in chief of the ill-fated Cargo.
After several rounds of tweaks — new approach to covers, new front of book sections and finally a total overhaul in August — In Style recently has begun to turn around. For the first half — when most magazines reeled from declines — the title’s total paid circulation was up 3 percent to 1.8 million and newsstand sales jumped 4 percent in to 783,254. Early figures for the August issue show a 13 percent improvement in newsstand sales over last year with around 746,000 copies sold.
The transition is to take place as of today, and for those who are wondering, Lawhon is still planning to attend the shows in Milan and Paris. — Stephanie D. Smith
WHO CAN AFFORD TO BUY ANYTHING ANYMORE?: It’s been a quiet year for mergers and acquisitions in the media world, but if any deals get done before yearend they’re likely to be fairly modest. “…It is all about the price and it’s about the right price rather than some of the stupid prices that have been paid and some of the deals that shouldn’t have been done,” said Jeff Zucker, president and chief executive officer of NBC Universal. Zucker joined Steven Rattner, managing principal at Quadrangle Group, and Mel Karmazin, chief executive of Sirius Satellite Radio Inc., to talk about the impact of today’s economy on the media merger and acquisitions landscape at a Portfolio breakfast on Tuesday.
Zucker said NBC Universal has been active in M&A during the past 16 or so months but nothing is planned in the near future; however, he didn’t dismiss a report that he’s interested in DreamWorks. “If it’s available, look, obviously it’s a great company, and if it’s really available it’s something that we would really consider but again it would have to be on the right terms and the right structure,” he said.
Rattner said NBC Universal’s purchase of the Weather Channel and Bloomberg’s buyback of Merrill Lynch’s stake are the only multibillion-dollar deals that have gotten done all year. “It’s been an incredibly slow year for the media M&A landscape and I think what’s happened in the last few days is simply going to exacerbate that and you are going to have less availability of credit,” said Rattner. “I think the banks, which were pretty much out of business before this week are now almost completely out of business. You’re going to have more economic uncertainty because people are now even more worried about the state of the economy and whether we’re headed into a recession or not and therefore I think we’re going to have more reluctance on the part of strategic fires to step up at this particular moment before we know where the dust is going to settle and you have, you know, issues on advertising and other things that are clouding the picture as well.” — Amy Wicks
SAM ZELL GETS SUED: Sam Zell has faced more than a few hurdles since taking over The Tribune Co., but nothing was more unexpected than a lawsuit filed against Zell by current and former Tribune employees on Tuesday in Los Angeles. The lawsuit states that, “This case is about a corporate takeover done through a series of carefully manipulated complex financial transactions involving an Employee Stock Ownership Plan. Rather than acquire and operate the Tribune Company in the best interests of its employee-owners, Sam Zell exacted severe, long-lasting damage to an institution that citizens in a democracy rely on and require to effectively speak truth to power.” Moreover, since completing his takeover in December 2007, the suit states Zell’s irresponsible actions and public statements — such as those zany press releases — has damaged the reputation and business of the company. The plaintiffs are seeking to recover all losses to the Tribune Employee Stock Ownership Plan and company caused by Zell and other executives’ “breaches of fiduciary duties.” They also want removal of all defendants from their fiduciary positions as well as removal of the board. A spokesman for Tribune said, “we have not read the lawsuit and will decline comment.” — A.W.
CARLA’S TURN AGAIN: Carla Bruni-Sarkozy was shot by Paolo Roversi in Paris last week for the T Women’s Fashion winter issue, which will be published in the Oct. 19 issue of The New York Times. Stefano Tonchi, editor for T The New York Times Style Magazine, said Bruni-Sarkozy is part of a “New French Wave” 14-page portfolio of artists, musicians, actors and film directors, all shot by Roversi. The portfolio also includes Eva Green and Vincent Cassel. “T Women’s Fashion Winter 2008 is a special French issue including features on Balmain’s designer Christophe Decarnin and artist Sophie Calle,” said Tonchi. — A.W.