TOUGH BARGAINING: Is Bonnie Fuller destined to rejoin the ranks of the six-figure slobs? Fuller’s contract with American Media Inc., where she has been editorial director since 2003, expires at the end of the month, and a new one has yet to materialize. While negotiations are moving ahead, sources say her boss, AMI chairman David Pecker, has balked at an extension of her current deal.
Fuller’s contract provides her with $1.5 million per year in base salary, plus bonuses tied to the newsstand performance of Star magazine and other titles. Fuller was guaranteed a bonus of $500,000 in 2004 as an incentive for leaving her job at Us Weekly, but in 2005, she earned only $74,851 in bonus pay, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The trend in Star’s single-copy sales suggests she won’t be earning much in incentives for 2006, either. Almost all of Star’s May and June issues have sold fewer than 700,000 copies on the newsstand, according to competitors’ projections, compared with 863,508 in the second half of 2005.
Those numbers help to explain why Pecker, according to several sources who have been following the situation, is driving a harder bargain this time around. One insider said Pecker is hoping to slash Fuller’s salary by more than half. “David is really under pressure to cut costs,” said the insider. “He’s not going to renew her contract for the amount of money she’s getting now.”
“I can’t believe she’d stay for that,” countered an associate of Fuller’s. Even assuming other portions of her package were restructured to make up for the salary reduction, he added, “At the end of the day, it’s a slap in the face.”
Another source close to the situation said salary was not the sole point of contention. “They’re nickel-and-diming her on perks,” such as the $18,000 a year set aside for her health club expenses.
Asked about these details, an AMI spokeswoman said they were “absolutely not true. All these claimed facts are wrong.” But it’s worth noting that in 2003, when Fuller’s contract at Us ran out, she and boss Jann Wenner claimed in the New York Post to have reached a new three-year deal. Four months later, Fuller defected to AMI.
One thing is clear: If Fuller was counting on being able to fall back on her book-writing career, she’ll need a new plan B. According to Nielsen BookScan, Fuller’s self-help memoir, “The Joys of Much Too Much,” has sold only 3,262 copies since April. BookScan tracks roughly 70 percent of the market, meaning the book has almost certainly sold fewer than 5,000 copies total. A spokeswoman for Simon & Schuster, which published the book, declined to say how many copies had been sold, but said 29,000 copies had been printed. She added, “We are pleased with the book’s performance and look forward to continuing to work with Bonnie on publicity.”
— Jeff Bercovici
BABY BOOM: Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt‘s debut appearance on newsstands yielded a major bump for People — and a good thing, too, considering the magazine reportedly paid more than $4 million for the honor. The current issue, with the first photos of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie‘s newborn girl, is on pace to sell between 2 million and 2.2 million copies, according to an estimate by a source with access to checkout data. In recent years, only People’s year-end double issues have sold at that level; a typical weekly issue sells 1.5 million. The spike is especially notable in that this issue’s cover price was increased by 50 cents, to $3.99. Nor does the increase appear to have come at the expense of People’s competitors. The current issue of Us is on track to sell about 975,000 copies, while In Touch will sell more than 1 million. Star appears headed for a total of about 675,000 — well below its 2005 average, but, as noted above, consistent with its recent performance.