MEIGHER POISED TO 'COMMUNICATE' WITH READERS

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NEW YORK-Meigher Communications has yet to publish a single issue of a single magazine, but it's starting to look a lot like a professional publishing company.

Adding to a powerhouse lineup of executives and investors, the company named media industry veteran Joe Armstrong, 50, as publishing director, overseeing advertising and marketing for its properties.

After announcing two magazine projects late last year, Meigher Communications is close to finalizing three more deals to acquire properties in the parenting, health and real estate categories.

The company's goal is to create an upscale publisher of titles aimed at aging baby boomers and to simultaneously develop interactive editions for on-line computer services, CD-ROMs and other electronic platforms.

Meigher Communications was formed last fall as a limited partnership led by Chairman-CEO S. Christopher Meigher III, 47, a former Time Inc. executive, and President Douglas Peabody, 41, a venture capitalist and former vice chairman of America Online. Dorothy Kalins, 50, former editor of Metropolitan Home, is editor in chief.

Investors in the partnership-believed to have raised more than $20 million to date-include America Online; Andrew Heiskell and Nicholas J. Nicholas, both former Time Inc. chairmen; and managing directors from investment bankers Lazard Freres & Co. and Bear Stearns Co.

In April, Meigher will put its first product on newsstands with the relaunch of Garden Design, an upscale, every-other-monthly with a circulation of 75,000.

The following month, it will publish the premiere issue of a U.S. edition of Saveur, a popular European food magazine. Saveur will start regular publication in September as an every-other-monthly with a circulation of 100,000.

Both magazines will be available on America Online, an interactive computer service, soon after making their debuts.

Mr. Meigher believes there is a sea change taking place in the publishing industry that bodes well for companies that are entrepreneurial, flexible and technologically savvy.

"We really are in the information and communications business, but we're sort of beset with these blinders that say we're only in the magazine business, and we've got to look beyond that," he said. "There's a sclerosis in big organizations. They get so consumed with scale and bureaucracy and culture that it's hard to stay close to the customer and it's hard to be creative."

Mr. Meigher said he and Ms. Kalins were brought together more than a year ago by Mr. Armstrong, and all three executives share a passion for magazines and an expertise in reaching baby boomers.

"It's gotten to be such a commodity business, and we're trying to create magazines that are original and authentic and that readers will pay for," Ms. Kalins said. "These are the fundamental operating concepts of our company."

Mr. Armstrong worked at Rolling Stone from 1973 to 1977, rising from ad director to president, publisher and chief operating officer. He then spent four years as president, publisher and editor in chief of New York Magazine and New West.

For the past 10 years, he has quietly done consulting work for publications including USA Today, Time and Harper's Bazaar, where he played a key role in the fashion magazine's relaunch.

Also joining Meigher Communications as creative director is Michael Grossman, 35, from design director at Time Inc.'s Entertainment Weekly.

Sean Callahan, executive editor of Garden Design, will oversee electronic projects at the company.

Mr. Meigher said he settled on five publishing properties after considering 141 start-up and acquisition proposals. He said the next three projects are a newsletter in the parenting field, a health magazine done on a contract publishing basis and a "real estate-lifestyle" magazine.

He declined to name them but said he expects to finalize at least two of the deals by late February.

In addition to electronic versions of its magazines, Meigher Communications plans to develop newsletters, special issues and other line extensions.

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