In a private room at the Stanhope just days after Thanksgiving, Hearst and Miramax executives huddled to determine the future of Tina Brown's brainchild -- one of the most anticipated magazine launches in years. (Their talks were first reported Jan. 18 in Advertising Age.)
SEARCH IS OVER
After failed attempts to form alliances with Time Warner and Hachette Filipacchi Magazines, Talk Media was still in need of a partner to help kick off its 500,000-circulation general-interest monthly this fall.
Last July, Ms. Brown, then editor of The New Yorker, and partner Ron Galotti, then Vogue publisher, had convinced Miramax Films' Harvey Weinstein to back their idea for a magazine that could launch spinoff books, movies and TV projects. But four months later, Talk Media still needed a major publishing company to provide manufacturing and distribution muscle.
Last week, Talk Media executives finally got their wish. Hearst Magazines will take a 50% stake in the new venture, and handle such tasks as newsstand distribution and subscription fulfillment. Talk Media will keep control of editorial, advertising sales and marketing.
The partners are expected to spend at least $50 million on the launch. "It's a pretty important, sizable venture," said Mr. Galotti. "We needed the partnership to produce the kind of circulation that a company like Hearst can produce for a new title."
Mr. Galotti said he's received commitments from major, unnamed advertisers already.
BROWN, GALOTTI KEEP STAKE
Ms. Brown and Mr. Galotti each retain an equity stake in Talk Media. The Hearst deal extends only to Talk magazine and its Web site. Talk Media and Miramax still plan to produce movies, TV programs or books that Talk inspires.
Mr. Weinstein -- who often uses the Stanhope for meetings and entertaining -- was joined at last year's first meeting by Hearst Corp. President-CEO Frank A. Bennack Jr., Hearst Magazines President Cathleen P. Black and Hearst Magazines Exec VP-General Manager Mark Miller.
Mr. Weinstein brought Ms. Brown and Mr. Galotti, as well as Charles Layton, Miramax exec VP-office of co-chairman, and Steven Hutensky, Miramax senior VP-business and legal affairs. Ms. Brown and Mr. Galotti unveiled a prototype of Talk and their vision of a magazine that would capture "the American conversation."
"Once the Hearst team saw the dummy, things moved along pretty quickly," said Ms. Brown, who characterized Hearst as "the best publisher in the industry" -- a jab at her former employer and Hearst archrival, Conde Nast Publications.
A partnership between Hearst and Walt Disney Co., which owns Miramax, seems natural. Hearst is a partner with Disney-owned ABC on cable channels A&E Television Networks, Lifetime and ESPN. Hearst-Argyle Television is also the largest affiliate group within the ABC TV network. In fact, after that initial November meeting, all thought the deal should happen.
MOVING AGGRESSIVELY FORWARD
"Everyone walked away believing what Tina had created was a very important and exciting magazine and we wanted to be a part of it," said Ms. Black. "It's a great partnership. Frank Bennack and Michael Eisner have had a strong relationship for years, and with Hearst's clout in circulation and its distribution experience, we are in a position to move this magazine aggressively forward."
Hearst joint ventures are not unusual. Two high-profile launches, Marie Claire