Planning: Florio lays out 1997 strategies.

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Conde Nast Publications is, for the first time, taking a serious look at extensions of its core brands that could result in everything from an Architectural Digest TV show to GQ sunglasses.

The upscale publisher is also quietly exploring several launches and continuing to shake up its executive ranks.

"There are two other magazines that we're working on [and] one of them is unlike any other Conde Nast magazine," Steven T. Florio, 47, said during an exclusive interview with Advertising Age last week to mark his first anniversary as CEO and third as president of the privately held company.

Mr. Florio declined to discuss further details of the projects, but said one title could debut by the spring of 1998. Insiders said a new young men's magazine is one concept being explored.

FASTER LAUNCH

Mr. Florio is also accelerating the launch plans for Conde Nast Sports for Women, being introduced with a September issue and a rate base of 350,000.

"The response from Madison Avenue and the direct-mail drop was so encouraging that we're going monthly right out of the box," he said.

Also in the works is Personal Best, envisioned as an eventual competitor to Men's Health; it will be published as a GQ insert in May.

In Latin America, the company is being more conservative. Mr. Florio recently scrapped plans for an edition of Vogue in Argentina because he said the project wasn't economically feasible.

The increased activity comes as Conde Nast is coming off what Mr. Florio said is a record year for profits. While declining to disclose financials, he said Conde Nast profits increased 103% for the fiscal year ending Jan. 31.

Encouraged by last year's GQ Personal Best Awards, which ran on cable network VH1, Mr. Florio is also exploring TV projects for other titles.

"We're very close to doing something with Architectural Digest," he said. Insiders believe a pilot is being developed for a weekly TV show. Also under consideration: TV shows based on Bon Appetit/Gourmet, Conde Nast Traveler, Self and Vogue.

"We want to make sure that whatever we do won't compromise our core print brands," Mr. Florio said. "We're exploring GQ sunglasses as a brand, but you won't see a GQ fragrance. We won't become competitors to our advertisers."

HUNSINGER TO NEW POST

This week, Mr. Florio is expected to announced that Gourmet Publisher Peter King Hunsinger is going to be the new publisher of Architectural Digest. He replaces Tom Losee, 53, who's leaving the company. It means that only one publisher remains in place from the team that Mr. Florio inherited from his predecessor, Bernard Leser: Allure Publisher Alexandra "Sandy" Golinkin.

Mr. Florio, a brash executive who has sparked feuds with rival publishers, makes no apologies for his housecleaning efforts or aggressive - and sometimes controversial - style.

MAKING UP WITH AMEX

He's patched up a tiff with American Express Co. over rumors spread by some Conde Nast executives that American Express Publishing Corp. was on the block.

"We're doing business with American Express and we're hopeful that we're going to be doing some interesting things with American Express in 1997," Mr. Florio said. "The credit card of choice here at Conde Nast is the American Express card."

After a pause, he joked, "I'll get a nasty letter now from Visa."

Other than that one flap, he says, "I have no regrets. If I said it, I probably meant it when I did."

SECURE FUTURE

Although questions about the timetable for the retirement of Conde Nast Chairman S.I. Newhouse Jr. have swirled for years, Mr. Florio's long-term tenure is considered secure.

He and Mr. Newhouse, who will eventually turn over the reins to cousin Jonathan Newhouse, have a close working relationship.

Mr. Newhouse, who turned 69 in November, said last week he has no plans to step down.

"I'm hoping they carry me out of here," he said.

Copyright January 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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