Australian magazine seeks an eye for The Eye

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SYDNEY--There's not much room for mateship in Australia's magazine industry, even when your mate is Australian media mogul Kerry Packer.

Lawyers representing Mr. Packer's magazine company, Australian Consolidated Press, were busy firing a stern warning to rival publisher Text Media and its founder, Eric Beecher, earlier this month,threatening to file an injunction if the company went ahead and launched The Eye, its much anticipated news magazine.

ACP publishes fashion magazine Harper's Bazaar, formerly known as Mode, which has long featured a social column also called The Eye.

"It's true we sent the letter reminding him [Mr. Beecher] of our rights to the name The Eye. We own the rights, and we're trying to protect it," says ACP Lifestyle Group Publisher Pat Ingram.

Some of the finance for Text Media's The Eye is being provided by multi-millionaire and advertising icon John Singleton, a mate of Mr. Packer's for the past 30 years. Mr. Singleton has invested $1.7 million for a 10% stake in Text Media.

Mr. Singelton, chairman of Singleton Ogilvy & Mather, doubted if his old mate Kerry or son James, chief executive of ACP parent company Publishing and Broadcasting, knew of the legal threat.

"It would have been a decision taken by someone 15th in charge ... I'll bet a lot of money they [Kerry and James] didn't know anthing about it," Mr. Singleton says.

ACP's threats fell on deaf ears, and Mr. Beecher went ahead and launched the 112-page first issue.

"We have been aware for years that Harper's Bazaar has a column called The Eye. This is a whole magazine targeting a completely different audience. Our lawyers have written back rejecting their claim," Mr. Beecher says.

With a cover price of $3.25, some 100,000 copies of the fortnightly magazine have been distributed nationally. The title is billed as a cross between Vanity Fair, HQ, New Yorker, The Observer and The Spectator.

The Eye is aiming at readers earning more than $50,000 a year, aged 34 to 50, who watch the commercial-free ABC and upscale SBS televisionnetworks, are avid readers of newspapers and have a penchant for the arts, theater and books.

The launch issue features News Limited Chairman and Chief Executive Lachlan Murdoch, son of News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch, on the cover above the headline: "Family planning, Murdoch style".

"It was very difficult deciding on the cover story," Mr. Beecher says. "It's a very interesting story. He's a popular figure. We just felt that it would have a wide appeal."

Copyright October 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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