Hachette Takes Woman’s Day Off Auction Block, Conde Nast Closes Woman
NEW YORK (AP) _ France’s Hachette SA took its Woman’s Day magazine off the auction block Wednesday, saying it was dissatisfied with the bids it received for the 53- year-old publication and now will invest in improving it.
Separately, Conde Nast Publications Inc. said it would scrap the much smaller circulation Woman magazine after its September issue.
Woman is the first Conde Nast magazine to cease publication since the Newhouse family took control of the company in 1959. Woman has been published for 10 years but was acquired by Conde Nast about 18 months ago.
Both Woman’s Day and Woman have had double-digit declines in advertising pages for the first six months of the year amid an industrywide ad slump.
Consumer magazine ad pages were off 3.3 percent industrywide in the first half of the year compared with the January-to-June period in 1989, with traditionally heavy magazine advertisers such as automotive and tobacco companies trimming their spending.
Magazine industry analyst Martin S. Walker said the two latest developments show ″the market has really decided that there is no longterm future in broadly-based women service magaines.″
He said the audience for such magazines is aging rapidly and that younger women appear to prefer more contemporary approaches.
Hachette put Woman’s Day up for sale in mid-May, saying it would enable the company’s U.S. operation to trim its debt while focusing its attention on creating or acquiring special interest publications with international appeal.
Along with Woman’s DAy, a monthly magazine that claims current circulation of 4.6 million, Hachette had planned to sell the 21 Woman’s Day Specials that appear periodically.
″The bids we received on Woman’s Day did not reflect the true worth of this very valuable franchise,″ said Peter Diamandis, president and chief executive of Hachette’s Diamandis Communications Inc.
″It is not in the best interests of the magazine or the company to sell,″ he said in a statement. Hachette now plans to invest in the magazine.
The company never disclosed what minimum price it wanted for the magazine, which had an operating profit of more than $25 million last year.
Didier Guerin, president of Hachette Publications Inc., which oversees Diamandis Communications, declined to say how many bids were received or who the bidders were. But the bidders reportedly included Britain’s Robert Maxwell, Reader’s Digest Association Inc. and Macfadden Holdings Inc., a partner in the National Enquirer tabloid.
He said Hachette Publications had wanted to reduce its debt but was under no immediate pressure to do so. Most of the company’s unspecified debt resulted from Hachette’s $712 million purchase of the CBS magazine group from CBS Inc. in 1988.
Hachette Publications owns 18 magazines, including Road & Track, Flying, Boating, Car and Driver, Elle and Memories. Guerin said all but two or three are profitable and that the company would now ″examine all the options″ for those that are unprofitable.
He said Memories, an 18-month-old magazine that re-examines major stories years after they have happened, is one of the magazines being examined for possible sale. But he cautioned that a decision on whether to sell it has not been made.
Conde Nast spent heavily over the past 18 months on Woman, improving the color and graphics, hiring top writers and getting better display space at the checkout stands, said publisher Rebecca Darwin.
She said the company also boosted its circulation by about 300,000 to a recent average of nearly 600,000 an issue, she said.
In a statement, Conde Nast Chairman S.I. Newhouse Jr. said ″the magazine did not develop as we hoped it would.″
Newhouse was said to be unavailable for further comment, but Ms. Darwin said the magazine had been up for sale for several weeks and no serious bidders emerged. ″The feeling was that in this market it might take a long time to sell and the economics of it were that he felt it was best to cease publication,″ she said. The magazine was believed to be losing money.
Conde Nast publishes 13 magazines including Vanity Fair, Vogue, Glamour, GQ, Gourmet and Mademoiselle.
Ms. Darwin said she would look for work outside Conde Nast.