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Memo Pad: New Chiefs... Up, But Things Don't Look Good...

Peter Brant wasted no time in staffing up Brant Publications after Ingrid Sischy and Sandra Brant revealed they were leaving its flagship title, Interview,...

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NEW CHIEFS: Peter Brant wasted no time in staffing up Brant Publications after Ingrid Sischy and Sandra Brant revealed they were leaving its flagship title, Interview, and Sandra Brant was selling her 50 percent stake in the company to her ex-husband and co-owner, Peter. On Thursday, Brant tapped Interview veterans Glenn O'Brien and Fabien Baron as co-editorial directors overseeing all three of the company's publications — Interview, Art in America and The Magazine Antiques. Both will officially take their positions on Feb. 22, the day Sandra Brant's sale is final.

Brant and his new team had been in talks about their new roles at the company for the last six months.

Reached by phone late Thursday night, Peter Brant explained his vision for the next generation of Interview. "The vision is to carry on the legacy of what it meant to [Warhol], interested in the performance arts, the visual arts and very interested in fashion and the glamorous side of fashion." He also said, "Some of the best issues were issues that Fabien Baron designed and Glenn O'Brien were actively involved in putting together. Those Madonna issues were very important at that time. Fabien's one of the best art design people. Glenn has a very good feel on what's happening culturally in New York."

"We're going to try and do something really different," said O'Brien. "Sort of in the spirit of what Andy Warhol would have done if he were around. We're going to make it young, surprising, funny and beautiful." O'Brien and Baron's presence likely will be felt in the May issue of Interview.

O'Brien first joined Interview in the Seventies and became editor and art director of the title when he was just 24. He left to work at several publications including Rolling Stone but, in 1990, rejoined the staff as editor at large while simultaneously serving as creative director at Barneys New York. It was then that he and Baron helped Sischy redesign the title. O'Brien also created ads for Barneys, Calvin Klein, Swatch, Dior and Nike. He also penned several books and writes columns for GQ and Italian Vanity Fair.

In addition to running his own ad agency, Baron was most recently creative director at French Vogue but on Thursday gave up that position. He has also been a creative director at Italian Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Arena Homme Plus and Vogue Paris.
"Interview is one of those places where it's a cultural intersection," said Baron. "I think what my mission is to be is to make that fusion of these elements really strong and try to upgrade to its highest point, its cultural points."

Discussing his plans for Interview, Brant said he aims to invest in the magazine. "We plan on continuing the tradition of the best photographers and giving them a forum to show the up-and-coming great photographers." Brant also said he will immediately start expanding the magazine's presence online.

Many media insiders wondered what Interview would be without Sischy and her relationships driving the content of the magazine, to which Brant responded: "To say that Interview is a product of Ingrid's friends...that's like saying what's Vogue going to be like without Grace Mirabella? Anna Wintour does a really great job."

Sischy and Sandra Brant will stay with the magazine through a transition period, but Peter Brant said the door was open for the pair to contribute to the magazine in the future. In a statement, Sischy and Sandra Brant said, "We wish nothing but the best for them, and Brant Publications, and we will do everything to make this a smooth transition with our wonderful staff." The news of their departure from Interview, and Sandra Brant's sale of her 50 percent stake, was first reported Wednesday on WWD.com. — Stephanie D. Smith

UP, BUT THINGS DON'T LOOK GOOD: It's earnings season once again and Meredith Corp. led off by reporting a sizeable increase in publishing operating profit, at nearly 30 percent, to $45 million for the second quarter ended Dec. 31, as compared with the same period a year ago. Publishing revenues grew 5 percent to $309 million, with an 8 percent rise in ad revenues, led by More, which was up 30 percent. Overall for the company, net earnings were up 3 percent, to approximately $36 million. During an earnings conference call, company executives told analysts that third-quarter publishing and broadcasting ad revenues are running lower compared with the third quarter a year ago. Meredith's stock is still trading near its 52-week low. On Thursday it closed at $46.40.
Meredith also reported that circulation revenues declined, primarily because of the transition of Parents, Family Circle and Fitness magazines to its "direct-to-publisher model." During the quarter, revenues at Meredith Interactive Media rose more than 25 percent, from the redesigns of bhg.com and parents.com, in addition to the company's niche sites. Unique visitors averaged 10 million and page views averaged approximately 150 million a month. The average time spent on the sites per visitor increased 5 percent to 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, Meredith downplayed a New York Post report on Jan. 18 that Wal-Mart will dump three of the publisher's largest magazines from its stores. The paper reported that Wal-Mart purged 1,000 titles that are no longer in print (Celebrity Living, Child, Ellegirl) as well as magazines that are underperformers at the store, some of which target a more affluent audience than the average Wal-Mart shopper. During the conference call, Meredith Publishing Group president Jack Griffin said the New York Post report was "not accurate. If you go into Wal-Mart today, you'll find our magazines sold and we expect that to continue." Meredith recently struck a deal to sell home goods under the Better Homes brand in the stores beginning later this year. "We expect sales of Better Homes and Gardens magazine in fact to increase and the merchandising of it to be more pervasive around the store," added Griffin.

A Meredith spokesman also told WWD on Thursday: "Our products never left the stores, and they will continue to stay in the stores."

Wal-Mart, which accounts for about 15 percent of magazine sales in the U.S., also gave the indication that Meredith titles would still be sold in its stores, saying in a statement: "Wal-Mart has a mutually beneficial relationship with Meredith that includes a number of initiatives and programs. We continue to offer our customers the Meredith publications they seek, including Better Homes and Gardens." — Amy Wicks and S.D.S.