Hachette pulls plug on ‘George’

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Hachette Filipacchi Magazines pulled the plug on George, the general-interest political magazine started up by the late John F. Kennedy Jr. in 1995. "We have not been able to create the kind of advertiser response" needed, said a subdued Hachette President and CEO Jack Kliger, "nor does it look like it will be coming in the reasonable future. What began as a three- to four-year window got progressively more elongated over the last couple of months," as the economy's rosy tone darkened. The magazine's combined February-March issue will be its last.

We finalized this year's budget at the beginning of November," Mr. Kliger said. "The problem was, in the past month all the indicators got much worse." Through November, according to Publishers Information bureau, George's 2000 ad pages declined an alarming 40 percent, to just 251.32.

By comparison, in it splashy launch issue back in September 1995, George boasted a then-unheard of 175 ad pages. Then Mr. Kennedy, whose Random Ventures partnered with Hachette for the magazines' birth, wowed advertisers with star power and, at least initially, overrode doubts that the magazine's mix of politics and celebrity was too unwieldy to succeed.

That, Mr. Kliger implied, was ultimately one of George's problems. "I guess George didn't fit into a neat enough box." Last year, Mr. Kliger brought in former Money editor Frank Lalli and Mademoiselle associate publisher Dan Lagani to salvage the sagging title. Mr. Kennedy's July 1999 death in a plane crash touched off a frenzy of national mourning and, paradoxically, may have bought the flagging magazine more time.

Through June 30 circulation rose 13.8 percent to 461,0123, although single copy sales were down 8.1 percent.

Hachette is currently searching for an editorial director, but Mr. Kliger deflected questions as to whether Mr. Lalli would end up in that post. "That's not today's discussion," he said.

Earlier in the week, SmartMoney, the joint venture financial title from Dow Jones and Hearst Magazines, announced it would shutter its parenting offshoot Offspring, and The Industry Standard reportedly will announce layoffs in the coming week.

-Jon Fine

Copyright January 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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