Hearst picks up regional 'Veranda' for $40 mil

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hearst magazines late last week bought Veranda, the Atlanta-based shelter title, and plans to take its profile national. It's the first acquisition for Hearst since the tightly held magazine giant purchased Esquire in 1986, and strongly hints the company, which has fueled its growth via joint-ventures and start-ups, might be more active in the deal markets.

An executive familiar with the acquisition pegged the sale price in the $40 million range. A Hearst spokesman declined to comment on the price, and referred inquiries to a statement announcing the deal.

Though California claims the most Veranda subscribers, it remains in the eyes of many primarily a regional Southern title.

Co-founder, owner and Editor in Chief Lisa Newsom, in New York last week to finalize the deal, suggested such national concerns spurred it. "I felt as an individual owner I could not take it to the heights it should go." She said she sees circulation "being pushed" to 600,000 or 700,000.

`great potential'

A statement announcing the purchase quoted Hearst Magazines President Cathleen Black saying "Veranda has great potential to achieve the status of a national magazine brand." The statement pointed out potential adjacencies to Hearst titles such as House Beautiful, Country Living and Town & Country.

Veranda launched in 1987. Ms. Newsom targeted the regional upscale niche occupied by another magazine she co-founded-Time Inc.'s Southern Accents, housed in its Birmingham, Ala.-based Southern Progress division.

An executive familiar with both titles compared the competition between the two to "Time and Newsweek." Veranda's 2001 circulation of 393,000 narrowly trails Southern Accents' 411,000, but it almost doubles Southern Accents' newsstand sales. Last year Veranda posted slightly more ad pages than Southern Accents' 714.3, though a sharper decline for Veranda this year made it trail Southern Accents' pages through April, according to Publishers Information Bureau. For the first four months of this year, Veranda had 179.5 ad pages, down 22.7%.

Ms. Newsom and Publisher Sims Bray will remain with the title, which will stay headquartered in Atlanta.

Time Inc. had discussed the possibility of purchasing Veranda, said an executive familiar with the discussions, and the title was on the market at least since last fall. A Time Inc. spokesman declined to comment.

A spokeswoman for Conde Nast Publications, which publishes Architectural Digest and House & Garden and was seen by many as a likely bidder, also declined to comment.

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