Mitchell Fox CONDE NAST SHAKE-UP IS SIGN OF THE TIMES

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Steve Florio's latest publisher change since coming to power at Conde Nast Publications in February reflects the new, hard realities of the post-recession magazine business.

"It doesn't mean that the way we did things in the past was wrong," said Mr. Florio, president of the privately held company. "It just means the '90s are not the '80s."

In the latest shake-up, Playboy Publisher and Playboy Enterprises Publishing Group President Michael Perlis, 40, was lured to be the new publisher of red-hot Details. He replaces Mitchell Fox, sent in to try to perform the same magic on the floundering Vanity Fair. Mr. Fox replaces Kathy Neisloss Leventhal, who after 13 months in the job was named to the new post of corporate director of special projects.

Vanity Fair's ad pages have been skidding since Tina Brown left to become The New Yorker's editor nearly two years ago. In 1993, ad pages fell 18.5% to 1,247.8, according to Publishers Information Bureau. Through May, pages are down 23.2% compared with the same period last year.

Details saw ad pages rise 5.2% to 321.8 through May, while Playboy's pages dropped 4.4% to 247.7.

"We want all of our publishers to be revenue managers," Mr. Florio said. "It's not just enough to go out and sell space. They have ... [to have] heightened awareness of the bottom line."

To boost the company's image, Conde Nast on June 12 unveiled a $1.6 million network TV campaign from Berlin Wright Cameron, New York, during the NBA finals.

In a futuristic setting, the ad shows an announcer, described as the "500 Channel Man," striding toward a microphone. But he suddenly looks baffled and when his script drops to the floor, it's revealed to be blank pages.

The scene then flicks to a magazine writer at her computer terminal. There's a brief flash of the Conde Nast magazine titles, followed by a voice-over: "From the Gutenberg Bible to the information superhighway, the importance of technology will never be greater than the idea it is meant to convey." Then the punchline, "Content comes first. Conde Nast Publications."

Mr. Perlis' appointment raised eyebrows in the magazine industry since he's moving to a position of less responsibility.

Mr. Florio has snared other heavyweights to smaller jobs, perhaps as a first step toward bigger titles. He brought in New York Times Co. Women's Magazines President Chuck Townsend to be Glamour's publisher, for example.

"It's been a great run, and I'm leaving behind a lot of good people," Mr. Perlis said. "But I'm excited about the prospects at Details as it pursues a whole new generation of readers."

Playboy Enterprises Chairman-CEO Christie Hefner said she didn't need to immediately name a successor, citing Playboy's strong senior management.

Mr. Perlis was believed to be growing restless at Playboy, where his salary and bonus reached $620,000 in fiscal 1993, ended June 30. Much of the bonus was based on the lucrative catalog division, and he lost responsibility for that in a recent corporate realignment.

And Playboy Enterprises never expanded its U.S. magazine holdings, something Mr. Perlis hoped to do through launches and acquisitions.

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