Interview-mosphereInterview Magazine dinner, New York, America - 10 Sep 2012

Interview magazine is indeed heading for a fall “relaunch” sans more than $3 million in unpaid debts because of legal moves by its owner, Peter Brant.

Former publishing magnate Brant is pushing a speedy sale process for Interview’s assets, demanding that the yet-to-be-approved deal close by the end of August, a deal in which Brant is seller and buyer.

By filing for liquidation, which requires a company to be in such financial straits that it is unable to afford to restructure, much less pay creditors, Interview is able to avoid paying all of its $3.3 million in debts to various partners, freelancers and even longtime staffers. In the few months before the bankruptcy, Brant set up a new holding company, Singleton LLC, which holds his single $8 million secured claim on Interview’s assets, stemming from his regular cash injections to keep the magazine running.

Now it’s Singleton that has executed a deal to buy Interview’s assets for $1.5 million. So, in effect, Brant has agreed to pay himself $1.5 million for a magazine he already owned, but was supposedly tired of floating, and put into liquidation.

He’s demanding that the sale to himself close by Aug. 31 — fortuitous timing as Interview is set to publish a September, or fall, issue featuring transgender model Hari Nef, WWD has learned. But Brant closing the deal with himself is necessary for a proper relaunch, with the proposed purchase agreement noting “time is of the essence.”

Although a spokeswoman for Interview said in late May after the magazine filed for Chapter 7 liquidation that it had been losing money for some time, it doesn’t seem that was the issue for Brant. He’s buying the same magazine, which is even set to operate under the same leadership team as before, including his eldest daughter Kelly Brant. A representative for Interview and Brant could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

What does seem to be an issue for the Brants is paying the people they work with. Even high-level members of its masthead ended up working over the last few years without full payment, like editorial director Fabien Baron, who left in April over being owed $600,000.

Although the trustee overseeing the bankruptcy is on board with wrapping up the sale of Interview by month’s end, there are two possible hurdles that could arise. One is that this being a liquidation, Interview’s assets have to go through a public auction where higher bids from outside parties can come through, which could drive up the price and squeeze Brant out, if he’s unwilling to increase the amount he’s willing to pay himself. There’s some industry chatter of there being interest in the magazine, but it’s not worth the $10 million it would cost to pay off Brant’s secured claim and gain the assets.

The other possible hurdle is Baron, who recently won court approval to subpoena some financial records of Brant’s and Singleton’s in an effort to suss out how and why Interview filed for bankruptcy in the first place and what makes up his secured claim. Baron is now having to push for a delay of the sale in order to comply with his subpoena schedule, which conflicts with the expedited sale, but the trustee is refusing to alter the time line.

Baron’s lawyers noted in a Monday letter that with the sale schedule as is, which was proposed only after the subpoena schedule, there will be no time to review the documents being sought. Considering the proposed sale is to an “insider,” Brant, they’re pushing for extra scrutiny.

This article has been corrected to reflect a denial by photographers Inez & Vinoodh that they shot anything for the impending issue of the magazine.

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