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ALL THAT MATTERS IS RUPERT LIKES HER: When Rupert Murdoch named 27-year-old Natalie Bancroft to the News Corp. board to represent the family that had sold him Dow Jones, she was described in the press as an opera singer with no business experience and seen as a way for Murdoch to limit any actual impact from the Bancrofts. (He never interviewed the family’s more-experienced choices.)
Now, in Portfolio’s March issue, Sophia Banay offers another look at Bancroft, though her first-ever public remarks won’t necessarily mollify people who said Bancroft wasn’t up to the task. Of her position as News Corp.’s first female board member, she says: “I wouldn’t say I was excited….The family was screwing up [negotiations for the sale] right and left. My focus was more on, ‘Jesus Christ, how am I related to these people?'” When asked if she’s planning to get an MBA now that she’s on the board of one of the world’s largest media conglomerates, she asks: “In journalism?”
This story first appeared in the February 19, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
In her own defense, Bancroft says, “The last thing I am is a pushover. I’m not just some idiotic girl in piggytails yodeling.”
Bancroft, the daughter of a model and a Formula Two race car driver, was styled by the magazine and photographed in what fashion credits in the back of the book reveal is Catherine Malandrino, using a copy of the Wall Street Journal to shield her from the rain. The story also marks Portfolio — headed by a former top editor at the Wall Street Journal and stacked with the paper’s alums — breaking its silence on what was considered last year’s biggest media business story. — Irin Carmon
ON SCREEN: American Express’ new television commercial featuring Diane von Furstenberg shows the designer finding inspirations for her collections in the trees of her Cloudwalk estate in Connecticut, then working with her team in her design studio in Manhattan. The one-minute ad, shot by “Capote” director Bennett Miller, reveals as much about von Furstenberg the person as it does about the designer. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew the woman I wanted to become,” she says in the commercial, which will make its debut during the Academy Awards on Feb. 24. “Fashion was absolutely an accident in my life. As a result of that, I was becoming independent and I was becoming more and more the woman I wanted to be.
“If I have any role in what I do in fashion, it’s to make women feel more confident,” she continues. “To be confident makes you beautiful, makes you happy, makes you fulfilled. That’s why I am a card member.”
Von Furstenberg joins a list of designers who’ve done ads for the company in the past, including Bill Blass, Carolina Herrera and Paloma Picasso for TV, and Christian Lacroix, Karl Lagerfeld and Tom Ford and Domenico De Sole in print. The new campaign will be accompanied by an Annie Leibovitz-shot print campaign.
The president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America said she agreed to do the ads for several reasons. She’s used the card for decades, she told WWD, and “their target is the independent woman…very much what DVF women are.”
American Express also recently made a donation of $500,000 to the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, and she has plenty of personal memories in which the card played a role. “[In 1980,] I went to Australia on my own with the idea of buying a ranch,” she recalled. “I remember feeling so free and empowered as I was driving Highway 1 all by myself with my American Express card in the back pocket of my jeans. So for me, American Express is a symbol of my freedom.” (She didn’t buy the ranch.)
Diego Scotti, American Express’ vice president of global advertising, said the credit card company always seeks people “iconic and representative of the virtues and values aligned with the brand. [Von Furstenberg] inspired women to lead independent lives.” — Marc Karimzadeh
YELL IT FROM THE ROOFTOPS: Over the last few reporting periods, American Media Inc. has tended to quietly file its financial results with the Securities and Exchange Commission with no warning or fanfare — say, on a Friday before a three-day weekend. Not this time round. AMI sent out a press release trumpeting its latest financials, and it’s easy to see why. The net loss for the third quarter, ending Dec. 31, shrank substantially to $14 million, compared with $306.9 million one year ago. Operating income also shifted dramatically, from a loss of $302 million last year to a profit $17 million for the third quarter. Those big changes to the balance sheet were in part due to increases in revenue, to $115 million from $107 million; lower exceptional charges, and cost reductions, from the implementation of AMI’s management action plan. Revenue growth was driven by advertising and circulation gains from Shape, Star and Men’s Fitness, “each of which is experiencing a record advertising year,” said chief executive officer David Pecker. — Amy Wicks