HOT MAGAZINE 'FAST COMPANY' BEING SHOPPED: CONDE NAST ON LIST AS ZUCKERMAN, DRASNER ENVISION PREMIUM PRICE

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Fast Company, the golden child of Mortimer Zuckerman and Fred Drasner's media empire, may soon have a new parent.

Messrs. Zuckerman and Drasner are quietly shopping the title to prospective buyers, including S.I. Newhouse Jr., chairman of Conde Nast Publications, publishing executives close to the two companies told Advertising Age.

A Fast Company spokeswoman would not comment about any specific conversation, but did acknowledge the title is often called by publishers interested in buying it.

"Fast Company is one of the hottest magazines in the country and we get calls like this all the time. Each inquiry is handled on a case by case basis," she said.

A Conde Nast spokeswoman declined to comment.

NEWHOUSE 'SERIOUS'

But one executive close to Conde Nast said Mr. Newhouse has "seriously considered" an offer.

Another executive said Mr. Zuckerman is selectively entertaining bids or other options that would reduce his financial commitment in the 3-year-old magazine.

Conde Nast, parent of fashion titles such as Vogue and Glamour, also owns another hot upstart -- 6-year-old Wired. Last May, Mr. Newhouse surprised the industry when he bought the technology title from Wired Ventures, separating it from the online business.

Wired, once the darling of the techno-revolution, was struggling to define itself against a rash of new competitors when Mr. Newhouse purchased it. Since then, the title has undergone a redesign and editorial makeover to broaden its audience.

Fast Company, meanwhile, has successfully captured a small, influential audience that's feverishly devoted to it, much like Wired's beginning.

CAN COMMAND TOP DOLLAR

Why would Messrs. Zuckerman and Drasner want to sell? Because they believe they can demand a premium price, industry executives said. Also, the two have backed Fast Company with an investment plan that's just now allowing the title to build its own sales staff.

Until recently, ad pages were sold by the same staff as Mr. Zuckerman's other publication, U.S. News & World Report. Some speculate the added level of investment might be more than the executives are willing to make, given the amount of time it would take for Fast Company to turn a profit.

AHEAD OF ITS BUSINESS PLAN

Fast Company President-Chief Operating Officer Eric J. Gertler told Ad Age in October the magazine has yet to make a profit but is ahead of its business plan. Most publishers recognize that it takes about five years to make a new magazine profitable.

Circulation at Wired and Fast Company is strong, at a time when most other titles are struggling to show growth.

Since moving to Conde Nast, Wired's circulation jumped significantly, with the title posting gains of 36.4% to 511,478 for the last six months of 1998, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Similarly, Fast Company's circulation for that same period rose 37.9% to 256,348.

On the ad page front, Fast Company for the first three months of this year was up 86.7% to 202.83 ad pages. For the same period, Wired is off 16.7% to 253.39 ad pages.

Some of that drop off may be attributed to moving under the control of Conde

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