Memo Pad: Back and Forth... Since You've Been Gone...

Who's been tapping whose phones?

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BACK AND FORTH: Who's been tapping whose phones? The latest issues of Fortune and newest rival Condé Nast Portfolio strangely have a few things in common — starting with their cover stories. Both magazines have lengthy pieces on the inner workings of Cerberus Capital Management and its purchase of Chrysler Group, which perhaps isn't that much of a surprise. But one Portfolio staffer claimed Fortune found out about the piece on Cerberus for Portfolio's second issue, so Fortune followed its lead. A Time Inc. spokeswoman denied the claim, adding Fortune's Cerberus piece was in the works "for a very long time." For what it's worth, in his "Captain's Blog," posted on July 30, Andy Serwer, managing editor at Fortune, loosely commented on stories he'd like to see written, saying, "Or how about a story on Cerberus?!?!?..."

Well, Serwer better step it up a bit. Even though Fortune has twice the frequency of Portfolio, only the Condé Nast monthly's Cerberus story manages to get in the Aug. 5 appointment of Robert Nardelli as chief executive officer of Chrysler. Fortune's article has no mention of Nardelli, even though the Time Inc. title extensively covered the controversial executive when he was ceo of Home Depot.

And that's not the only story the two business magazines share. Both cover the New York Yankees, with Portfolio proclaiming "Crisis at Yankee Inc.," and Fortune's cover line reading, "Why the New York Yankees Could be Sold."

Once again, a Portfolio staffer claimed Fortune's piece was a "rush job," after it heard about Portfolio's story. Both magazines posted articles within hours of each other on Aug. 2, although Fortune was the first to report the YES Network, which airs Yankee games, could be up for sale, with Goldman Sachs & Co. testing the waters on its stake in the network.

A Portfolio spokeswoman declined to comment, while the Time Inc. spokeswoman said, "At Fortune we're too focused on putting out our biweekly magazine and breaking news on our Web site to 'steal' stories from another publication."

Responding to those who might question Fortune's story selection in its most recent issue, an insider at Time Inc.'s biweekly quipped, "With Portfolio's continued staff departures and troubles putting out just two issues, it's not surprising they would try and change the subject."
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