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Three years into the job of running one of the world's elite magazine companies and six months after being canonized CEO, Steve Florio was battling a cold but otherwise in a buoyant mood when we got together last Tuesday for lunch at the Four Seasons in Manhattan.

The Conde Nast chief had barely taken his seat at our corner table when a woman approached to kiss him on both cheeks. When she'd gone, Steve said, "Alexandra Penney. I fired her last year."

Donald Trump arrived. He'd just celebrated his 50th birthday, his hair a curious new color. He and a friend had the next table but after several whispered confidences they got up. "We made a mistake," said Mr. Trump bashfully, "we're in the next room." So they moved safely out of earshot. "He and I went out the other night," said Mr. Florio. Where do guys like that go for a drink? I inquired, sensing scandalous tales.

"The New York Yacht Club."

So much for scandal. We moved on to the magazine biz, touching a lot of bases in no rational order.

I asked whether he'd considered a deal to buy Fairchild's Women's Wear Daily and hot spinoff W from Disney. "Yes. I called [Michael] Eisner and asked him if they'd sell. He said absolutely not, that they were not available, and in fact there could be acquisitions there." You trust Eisner's word? "Absolutely, I've known him for years."

Ruth Whitney, he said, "is not retiring and not being retired" as editor of Glamour. "When those rumors were around she came in and asked me. Why should she retire? The magazine's doing well and in Mary Berner [the publisher] we have someone who's going to help run this company for years to come." As for Cathy Viscardi Johnston at Mademoiselle, "one of the best publishers around."

At Self, he said, "Rochelle Udell is wonderful. Ads and circulation are up. You know we had her in cold storage there for awhile and I kept telling Rochelle, as soon as a magazine comes open...."

Of another of his high-powered editors, Steve said, "Not a week goes by that somebody [on executive row] isn't p---ed off. So Teutonic."

He says good things about Reg Brack of Time Inc., Bill Kerr of Meredith, Bill Reilly of K-III, and very little good about David Pecker of Hachette Filippachi (you sense actual dislike there) nor of Cathy Black at Hearst. I asked if anything she'd done so far surprised him. "No, she hasn't done anything. I'm told she can't make up her mind." He called the delay in letting Bonnie Fuller take power at Cosmo an error. "If a good offer came along now she'd be out of there."

He sees boss Si Newhouse all the time, and early. "On a late day, 7 a.m." Of that famous Wall Street Journal piece in January when he was promoted, Steve says, "You know they didn't run the best line. When they said to Si, `but he [Florio] isn't a Newhouse,' Si said, `Not a Newhouse? He isn't even Jewish.'*"

Mr. Brady's U.K. report is en route by courier and appears next week.M

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