American Pie 25.10.01

The collapse of the dot.com industry is threatening to claim another victim. As a result, a whole stable of well-known magazines may soon be on the auction block here. Among them: Seventeen, Modern Bride, American Baby, Motor Trend, Automobile and, best known of all, New York Magazine. Owner Primedia, which recently paid $515m (£357m) for the US interests of Emap, is now struggling to stay afloat. Debts are piling up and its stock value has fallen from around $3bn (£2bn) earlier this year to under $500m (£346m). The company, according to Wall Street analysts, is "stretched thin". But breaking up Primedia might not be the answer. Its has assets of around $3bn (£2bn) and debts of $2.6bn (£1.8bn). "Selling up would just cover the debt," said another analyst. If there is a ‘fire sale’ the property likely to fetch the biggest price is New York Magazine – at least $200m (£139m).

 

Another victim of the economic decline is maverick US publisher Steve Brill. Three years ago, after enjoying a big success with the magazine American Lawyer and the television programme Court TV – which he sold to Time Warner for $40m (£28m) – he started a new media magazine, Brill’s Content. Promoted as a new "watchdog of the American press", it got yards of publicity when, in its first issue, it ran an exposŽ of prosecutor Kenneth Starr and his investigation into the misdoings of President Clinton with Monica Lewinsky. But after the initial splash, it was beset by editorial disagreements and a drop-off in ads. Circulation never got much over 300,000 – about half its goal. Now, after running through an estimated $20m to $30m (£14m to £21m), it has folded. But Brill doesn’t intend to give up his watchdog role. He says he will continue to teach a journalism course at Yale University.

 

The paper that helped Jimmy Carter win the US presidency in 1976 publishes its last issue in November. The Atlanta Journal, an evening paper, is merging with its sister title, the morning Atlanta Constitution. Gone With the Wind author Margaret Mitchell and sports journalist Grantland Rice, who created its first sports section in 1901, are mong the famous writers to have worked on the Journal over the years.

 

The Wall Street Journal, rendered homeless by the attack on the World Trade Center, hopes to move back into repaired space in downtown Manhattan by the end of the year. However, there is no longer room for all the staff. About half of the 750 executives and journalists will go back to their old quarters once they are certified safe, but the rest will stay in New Jersey, a 50-mile drive or an hour’s train ride from New York. To compensate them for having to work in what one Journal staffman described as Siberia, they are being offered a 50 per cent bonus on their annual salaries.

 

Also having housing problems is American Media, publisher of The National Enquirer, The Star, The Sun and other supermarket tabloids. Although medical experts believe there is no more danger from the anthrax which killed The Sun’s British-born photo editor Bob Stevens, chief executive David Pecker says the company will not return to the building in Boca Raton, even though more than $15m (£10.4m) was spent on renovating it just a few months ago. At present, the titles are being edited from temporary offices in nearby Florida towns.

 

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