It’s official. Peter Brant is once again the sole owner of Interview magazine, which he put into liquidation just over three months ago.
A New York bankruptcy court on Tuesday approved Brant’s $1.5 million offer, made through a holding company he owns, to purchase Interview’s assets out of bankruptcy. But considering he’s buying the assets from himself, he’s essentially getting the magazine back for free.
So why did Brant, a wealthy art collector and former newsprint magnate, even bother going through a bankruptcy liquidation at all? Well, by making that move in late May, he was able to wipe out $3.3 million in debts owed to hundreds of former employees, freelancers and agencies. And that appears to have been the only motive, as within a week of filing bankruptcy, Brant’s daughter Kelly Brant, who had been Interview’s president and responsible for its operations for the last several years, was already set to relaunch the title under most of the same leadership and a new holding company, Crystal Ball Media, according to a memo. The memo also made note of how much publicity the bankruptcy had gotten for Interview, highlighting a spike in new Instagram followers and being on the minds of a “whole new audience of young people.”
Brant basically maintained control of the sale process as well, because he was the sole secured creditor of Interview and held a claim in excess of $8 million. There had been talk of outside interest in the magazine, including from Fabien Baron, who quit as Interview’s editorial director in April after 10 years over being owed about $600,000 for his work, as well as the couple Philip Colbert, a British contemporary artist, and Charlotte Colbert, a photographer and filmmaker. But with Brant’s claim, the purchase price would have hovered around $10 million for an outsider. That seems to have been too steep a price for a title that has little in the way of real assets or intellectual property.
A spokesman for Baron declined to comment and representatives of Interview and the Colberts could not be reached.
The sale to Brant is set to close by Friday, leaving Interview free to release a new issue, which WWD learned has already been produced and features transgender model Hari Neff on the cover, a signal that Brant had no doubt his bankruptcy play would be successful. Mel Ottenberg, best-known as the stylist to Rihanna, has also signed on as creative director, a role formerly held by Karl Templer for a decade until he left earlier this year, also stemming from lack of payment. What’s unclear is which and how many other photographers, writers and editorial staffers are willing to go to work for Interview, knowing its leadership has a spotty history with employee payment.
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