NEW YORK — It was a meeting of the publishing magnates Monday night — almost.

This story first appeared in the June 26, 2002 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The idea was for Jack Kliger, chief executive officer of Hachette Filipacchi Medias, and David Pecker, ceo of American Media, to honor Conde Nast ceo Steven T. Florio with the American Ballet Theater’s Corporate Leadership Award at the Metropolitan Opera House in Manhattan. The problem was that neither Kliger nor Pecker showed up. According to a Hachette spokeswoman, Kliger couldn’t attend because he was in Moscow at a “trilateral conference” involving Vladimir Putin. Not to be outdone, Pecker had an equally flashy explanation for blowing off the ballet: he was planning to meet with Florida governor Jeb Bush to discuss the status of the American Media building in Boca Raton targeted last year by anthrax attacks. But Florio, perhaps lacking a high-profile politician to hang out with that night, chose to attend.

Given the ceo void, the role of MC was handed over to outgoing chairman of ABT’s executive committee, Gedalio Grinberg of Movado, who joked that Florio was responsible for Tina Brown’s exit from Conde Nast. “Steve called Harvey Weinstein and said, `There’s this great woman at the New Yorker you should meet,’ and that’s how he got her out of the New Yorker and Conde.” Florio retorted: “Who knew Gedalio Grinberg was the Cuban Henny Youngman? If I’d known, I would’ve booked him at Grossinger’s,” then muttered, “Putin, my…”

Florio accepted his award with aplomb, noting that “in magazine publishing, just as in ballet, creating something that looks perfect and effortless takes commitment, dedication, and plain hard work — but when it all comes together, the result is beautiful, exquisite and very much worth the effort.” He finished off his speech by enjoining the audience to enjoy principal ballerina Susan Jaffe’s swan song performance of “Giselle” — which, according to one observer, he chose to pronounce “Gazelle”‘”

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