FRENCH DIET: French conglomerate Lagardère is in talks with several partners over the fate of its international magazine business, a spokeswoman for the company said Wednesday.

“These are informal discussions which can result in anything from partnerships to joint ventures to an outright sale, but at this stage nothing is fixed and no time limit has been set,” she said.

This story first appeared in the December 2, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Lagardère is keen to identify ways to reduce costs and find synergies for its overseas business, where it has yet to achieve the critical mass it has in France. The group will hold on to its French magazine division and plans to retain editorial control over foreign editions of Elle magazine, the spokeswoman added. She declined comment on speculation earlier this year that Hearst Corp. was interested in buying a controlling stake in Elle and its U.S. subsidiary Hachette’s other publications in America. “They are certainly one of the possible partners, but by no means the only one,” the spokeswoman said.

Hearst executives did not return calls seeking comment.

According to Laurent Ohana, an adviser to Paris-based investment firm Ohana & Co. and principal of Parkview Technology Merchant Banking, interested parties could include “big media companies, such as Time Warner, Hearst and Condé Nast, with whom straight sales or complex joint ventures are possible.” However, he said he would not rule out private equity firms such as Providence Equity, Bain and Elevation, “who have the firepower both in terms of capital and know-how to buy and build a business in the magazine and media sectors.”

Lagardère’s overseas magazine business generated revenues of 700 to 800 million euros, or $976 million to $1.1 billion, in 2009 out of total revenues of 1.3 billion euros, or $1.8 billion, for the periodicals division as a whole. — Joelle Diderich and Miles Socha

GIVE ME A W OVER A V: The cover wars are heating up at Condé Nast, this time between W and Vanity Fair. The latest lady of contention? Rooney Mara, the 25-year-old actress dressed as avenging computer hacker and biker babe Lisbeth Salander in the American screen adaptation of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” According to industry sources, executives behind the film initially approached Vanity Fair about a possible cover but ultimately cooperated with W. Mara will be on the cover of the magazine’s February issue. Vanity Fair balked when it was told it would have to work with photographer Jean-Baptiste Mondino, who the studio had already hired to do work for the film, a spokeswoman for Vanity Fair said. Sources said editor in chief Graydon Carter wanted Annie Leibovitz to shoot Mara.

“[Producer] Scott Rudin wanted to use their own set photographer, Mondino, to take the shots. We like Mondino’s work, but said no way — that we would only use our own photographer. So they went with W,” said the spokeswoman.

W editor in chief Stefano Tonchi worked with Mondino on several covers at T: The New York Times Style Magazine, shooting actors such as George Clooney and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. In addition to the Mara cover, editor at large Lynn Hirschberg will profile the film’s director, David Fincher, inside the book. The February issue will also take a look at the best performances this year. Expect to see actors such as Nicole Kidman, Annette Benning, Julianne Moore, Justin Timberlake, Robert Duvall, Jesse Eisenberg and Jennifer Lawrence.

As for Vanity Fair’s Young Hollywood issue in March, sources said the magazine will shoot the cover next week and among those said to be in the running to be included are Natalie Portman, Ryan Reynolds and James Franco. Potential candidates for the inside cover are said to include Lawrence, Rashida Jones, Paula Patton, Andrew Garfield and Noomi Rapace, who played the lead in the original version of “The Girl in the Dragon Tattoo.” The theme is said to be along the lines of Thirties Shanghai. The list is being altered daily, so the lineup could change, noted one source.

And get ready for a lot more of Portman. The “Black Swan” actress is slated for the January cover of Vogue and the February cover of InStyle. Both magazines declined comment. — Amy Wicks and Samantha Conti

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