MEET THE NEW BOSS: Now that Primedia’s synergy dreams are officially DOA, it’s apparently time to get back to what it has historically done best: cost cutting. The first layoffs of the post-Tom Rogers era occurred at the scene of one of his dot-com dreams, Media Central — the amalgam of media properties once headed by Steve Brill, whose subject was other media companies. A source at Primedia said “a couple dozen” of employees had been let go, with the marquee name being Cable Neuhaus, the ex-Los Angeles bureau chief of Entertainment Weekly who took over the trade magazine-for-magazines Folio, less than a year ago. An in-depth feature on where Primedia went wrong would have been welcome right about now.
This story first appeared in the May 9, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Meanwhile, Primedia executives have been playing down reports of a New York Magazine sale. In fact, they’ve said, keeping New York Magazine could actually be a good fit since despite being a consumer magazine, it’s a niche publication with the relatively low circulation of 400,000, just 20 percent of what Seventeen sells to.
There’s just one problem: It’s not quite true.
While a formal auction is not going on and buyers may be wary until the black book goes out, several sources said late this week that Kohlberg Kravis Roberts honcho Henry Kravis is indeed meeting with potential investors and would not hesitate to sell the magazine if he could get a good price for it. And he would be particularly eager to unload New York if he were able to sell it in a package deal with some of the company’s smaller titles, said one source at New York.
So, who might be the interested parties?
Bill Reilly, who was the ceo of Primedia dumped by KKR for Tom Rogers, is rumored to be taking a look, as is Emmis Publishing, whose experience with Texas Monthly gives it experience with upscale regional titles. An Emmis spokeswoman had no comment.
But the presumed front-runner among the major magazine companies is off the list. According to sources, Condé Nast is not interested in acquiring the publication. Others, like Hearst and Time Inc., are also unlikely, said a source, despite that there has been “some interest” from certain quarters of Time Inc. A Wenner Media insider said it was very interested in the publication. “We would love to have New York Magazine,” the source said, but admitted there might be buyers with deeper pockets. — Greg Lindsay and Jacob Bernstein
LIVING AND BREATHING: Time Inc. has done a switcheroo on Living Etc., the existing British shelter title it is developing for a possible U.S. launch. Last week, corporate editor Isolde Motley bumped In Style special issues editor Claire McCugh off the development of the title and replaced her with In Style features director Angela Matusik. “Unbeknownst to Claire, Isolde asked Angela to do a prototype as well, and wound up liking it better,” said an insider.
Nevertheless, the switch in editors came as a further indication that this development project could see the light of day, despite that it has not yet been green-lighted for a launch.
The switch in editors is the latest in a series of surprising moves by Motley, who recently replaced the editors at Real Simple, Teen People and People en Espanol. —J.B.
TOSSED: Managing editor Jane Freiman is out at the New York Daily News. The most senior-level woman on the paper and the wife of “Killing Fields” author Sydney Schanberg, Freiman was largely responsible for the paper’s arts, fashion and food coverage during her eight years at the paper. Her exit comes just two weeks after the official resignation of gossip columnist Michael Gross and amidst rapid growth from the New York Post, which reported on Wednesday that its circulation had surged 10 percent to 620,000 readers, compared with The New York Daily News, which was basically flat at 737,000 copies sold on average. Edward Kosner, through a spokesman, said, “Jane took a voluntary buyout and I’m sorry she chose to do so.” But one insider characterized it a little differently: “People at her level are rarely ever fired. They are offered a dignified way to step down. They are told that people are not happy with their performance, and I do think that happened here.” — J.B.