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NEW YORK — Sandra Brant and Ingrid Sischy have resigned at Interview.
This story first appeared in the January 24, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
After two years of exploring strategic alternatives, Brant, chief executive officer, president and publisher of Brant Publications, has decided to sell her 50 percent interest in the company to her co-owner, ex-husband Peter Brant. She will leave the company, which publishes Interview, Art in America and The Magazine Antiques, after a transition period.
Sischy has resigned as the magazine’s editor in chief after 18 years at the helm.
The selling price could not be learned, although sources said Sandra Brant “did very well. It was fair value.”
In an exclusive interview, Sandra Brant said that, over the past two years, her objective was for the magazines to remain independent and to continue to operate in a creative environment. Although she was presented with several opportunities, including selling the magazines to a publishing company or private equity investors, several of the options would have provided her with financing to buy out her co-owner but would have saddled her with tremendous debt. Faced with a declining economy and tightening credit markets, which are bound to impact luxury categories, Sandra Brant would have had to take on a fairly significant economic risk.
So, instead, Brant decided to become the seller and have Peter Brant buy out her interest.
When the Brants originally bought The Magazine Antiques and Art in America in 1985, and then Interview in 1989, the company took on a large amount of debt with its assorted enterprises, not only the magazines. It took until December 2006 to pay down the debt. Today, the properties are collectively at their highest level of total paid circulation, and Interview’s advertising revenues have risen nearly 300 percent since 1993.
It’s been an uphill battle from the early days when the company’s flagship title, Interview, was subject to declining ad pages and stagnant circulation. For Sandra Brant to take on a financial partner and have to assume significant debt all over again didn’t make economic sense.
“I’ve done it for 23 years. I don’t want to feel like I’m in a movie with Bill Murray called ‘Groundhog Day.’ I’m interested in new challenges,” she said. “I love these publications and I care deeply about them. I’ll be there for the transition and to support the staff. They’re wonderful magazines and they’ll have a wonderful future.”
She started Brant Publications 23 years ago, handling the company’s operational duties and all aspects of the business. Peter Brant, who couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday, has been a silent partner. The couple divorced in 1996 and, two years ago, Brant, who heads Brant Industries Inc., a newsprint manufacturer, wanted to monetize his interests in the publishing firm. The Brants hired Allen & Co. to explore strategic alternatives.
It could not be learned Wednesday what Peter Brant’s plans are for the three magazines.
As for Sischy, who built Interview into an internationally recognized title that covers the worlds of art, fashion, entertainment and pop culture, she said she had no other choice but to resign Wednesday.
“With Sandy’s decision, it’s inevitable that I would resign,” said Sischy. When she was drafted as editor after Andy Warhol’s death, Sischy said she expected to help the magazine find its post-Warhol life and then return to writing. “It didn’t happen that way. I stayed a much longer time then I intended — 18 years.
“A whole lot of it has do with the great people I work with and the fact that Sandy and I have been a team. We’ve worked well together as partners, and when Ginger Rogers hangs up her dancing shoes, it’s time for Fred Astaire to dance in other ways.
“Although leaving the magazine and wonderful staff behind is difficult, it is the right decision and one that will allow the new owners to establish their own editorial stamp on the magazine,” said Sischy. She said she’s involved in several big projects that need her attention, declining to elaborate.
Sischy began her career at ArtForum in 1979 and is a widely published author on a range of cultural subjects. She also contributes to such magazines as The New York Times Magazine and The New Yorker and is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair.
Publishing and fashion heavyweights were surprised Wednesday to hear that Sischy and Brant had resigned from the company.
“If there are better people in publishing, I really don’t know them,” said Graydon Carter, editor in chief of Vanity Fair. “I can’t imagine Interview without them. As a competitor, when you think you have discovered something, it was in their magazine a year and a half before. They were a great team together. I’m not sure it’s a business without them. They did everything.”
Ralph Lauren added, “I think Ingrid and Sandy are both very friendly, nice women who have done a very good job with the magazine. They’re passionate and they love their magazine. They had good ideas. They were able to do things with personalities, artists and people in Hollywood. People wanted to do good things with them. They are very smart women who have very good ideas, and have put a lot of time and energy into it.
“I also know Peter and he’s a very good guy. He loves the art world. To find good replacements is not that easy,” he said.
Diane von Furstenberg said, “I have so much respect and so much love for both of them. They did an amazing job bringing Interview to another level.”
“I’m in shock. I love those two,” said David Lipman, chairman of Lipman, the New York ad agency. “I’ve supported this magazine for years because of my respect for Ingrid and Sandy and what they’ve done with it. They’ve built a loyal advertiser and every one of my brands believes in the magazine.”