The prospect of Interview magazine paying off any but one of its hundreds of creditors is looking less likely by the day — and that one creditor is none other than Peter Brant.
The wealthy Brant, who bought the publication shortly after founder Andy Warhol’s death in the late Eighties, is Interview’s sole secured creditor, a bankruptcy term that means he’s first in a very long line of people who are owed money, according to recent court filings. The fact that Brant owned the entity he was financially supporting, the same entity that failed to pay hundreds of photographers, modeling agencies, freelancers and staffers over recent years, is moot. And it looks like he fronted the magazine a lot of money.
Although a company spokeswoman told WWD after it filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, a liquidation, that Brant had been floating Interview for some time, the amount was not specified. Now, a court appointed trustee has said in a lengthy filing that about $8.2 million came from Brant. While the secured creditor is listed as Singleton LLC, its Connecticut business address is the same as White Birch Paper Co., the pulp and paper company Brant owns and oversees as chief executive officer.
The trustee added that in July 2016, Interview, led then and now by Brant’s daughter Kelly Brant, guaranteed “a loan” from Brant “collateralized by security interests in and liens on substantially all of [Interview’s] assets and property.” Brant in February assigned the claim to Singleton.
As for Interview’s assets — which are only listed as a deposit account for copyrights (meaning ownership of its trademarks lay elsewhere), its domain name and its subscriber list, along with a bank account with $17,000 in it — that value is still undetermined. Whatever they’re worth, it seems safe to say it won’t come out to enough to pay Brant, much less Interview’s remaining creditors, who are collectively owed more than $3.3 million.
Anyone getting paid also depends on who buys Interview, but that, like the bankruptcy in general, seems to have been predetermined to an extent by the Brants.
Within days of the mid-May bankruptcy filing, Kelly Brant signed off as president on an internal memo saying that Interview is being acquired by Crystal Ball Media, a new entity she, along with Jason Nikic, Interview’s chief revenue officer and prospective publisher, has formed. The memo suggested that the magazine will relaunch in September with Nick Haramis staying on as editor in chief and Mel Ottenberg, best known as Rihanna’s stylist, having already joined as creative director, a position previously held by stylist Karl Templer. The memo was published by the Daily Front Row, who’s new chief revenue officer is a former Interview executive and claims to be owed $170,000 for his work there.
The memo did not address why Interview actually filed bankruptcy when it did. Court filings show revenue came in at $5.8 million in 2016 and $5.5 million in 2017, relatively unchanged. But the decision to go straight into a liquidation proceeding, as opposed to a Chapter 11 restructuring, points to a rather cynical strategy of dodging creditors and then “buying” assets needed for a relaunch on the cheap.
A representative for Interview and Brant could not be reached for comment.
The only thing that could throw a wrench in such a plan would be if another buyer came along with a better offer for the Interview assets that are for sale, as the trustee is paid based on whatever value is squeezed out of them. But who would be interested in little more than a domain name and a subscriber list? A new owner can’t relaunch the magazine without acquiring the rest of its intellectual property, namely Interview’s trademarks, which again, are not currently listed as assets for sale.
Earlier this month, one source speculated that Brant himself may hold Interview’s trademark or have it in a another holding company not involved in the bankruptcy. There are about two dozen current and expired trademarks registered for Interview, a handful of which originate with the entity DCP-BMP Media Lender LLC. It’s unclear who owns that entity, although BMP Media Holdings is another Brant-owned entity that’s filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy, so it seems a safe guess that it shares an owner. If DCP-BMP turns out to control the main Interview trademarks, Kelly Brant has a direct line on gaining them for CBM, making it essentially pointless for anyone else to bid on Interview.
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