Celebrating Publishing's First Ladies... More Turmoil at Interview...

Though there may not be much to celebrate in magazine publishing these days, the industry took time out to toast two women.

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BACK TO THE FARM: The spin surrounding Kent Brownridge’s departure from OK magazine went into full tilt Thursday after the company said he would be leaving his post as general manager after four months on the job. So, too, will the editor in chief he hired a few months ago, Susan Toepfer. Northern & Shell North America, owners of OK, said Brownridge successfully restructured the company “with a view to consolidating profitability,” and had an impact on ad sales, circulation and editorial.

Sources close to the magazine told a different story, however. They said Brownridge, who was paid up to $1 million as general manager, brought in several new staffers, including Toepfer, at high salaries and, since lowering the cover price to $2.99 from $3.49, the magazine has sold between 300,000 and 350,000 copies — significantly less than the 450,000 or so that the title moved when it was more expensive. That also would make it the lowest-selling title in the celebrity weekly category that also includes People, Us Weekly, Life & Style, In Touch and Star. In a statement, the company said OK has had circulation growth of 400 percent since it launched in 2005. “At the end of the day, Kent promised all of this stuff and didn’t deliver,” said one insider.

Sources said Brownridge also slashed production costs, such as cutting the frequency of OK to biweekly from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. Early on at OK, he brought in Toepfer to replace founding editor in chief Sarah Ivens, who returned to the U.K. and became editor at large. Sources speculated that Ivens will become editor in chief once again now that Toepfer is out. Some insiders also believe former executive editor Rob Shuter, who was fired by Brownridge, will come back.

Brownridge could not be reached for comment.

A spokesman said Ivens will continue as editor at large and will not become editor in chief, adding that he hasn’t heard anything about Shuter’s possible return. The spokesman also confirmed that four employees, in addition to Toepfer, will be leaving the company, including the managing editor. “They were positions created by Susan, which, as a result of her departure, were no longer necessary,” he said.

Media Industry Newsletter reported that, as of Dec. 1, OK was up approximately 26 percent in ad pages over the previous year, to 695 pages. Brownridge will become a consultant to Northern & Shell, and chief financial officer Vince Ohanyan will take over as general manager. Before joining the company, Brownridge served as the head of Alpha Media after coming out of retirement on his farm. Richard Desmond, chairman of Northern & Shell, is supposedly returning to New York next week to reassess the business.

— Amy Wicks and S.D.S.
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