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"Equity" is the lure to nab a publishing CEO or CEO-wannabe. David Pecker's exit from Hachette Filipacchi Magazines to head up beleaguered American Media for a piece of the action was only the latest example of publishers looking for the big payoff.

James Dunning and company luredexecutives to Petersen Cos. over the last two years with the promise of sharing the wealth when the company went public. Tina Brown and Ron Galloti both made sure they had ownership status in Talk Media their new venture. And Capital Publishing's management team orchestrated the buyout from Fidelity Capital so they could run the show.

Fidelty sells Capital

In april, after two months of negotiations, Fidelity sold its interest in Capital to CEO Randy Jones and his financial backers, Greenwich Street Capital Partners for somewhere between $40 million and $50 million. Mr. Jones hopes Capital will reach $150 million in revenues, a size that would eventually allow him to take the company public. Capital's plan under Mr. Jones is growth primarily through acquisitions, and to boost ad revenues from the existing titles, Worth, Civilization and women's magazine launch Equity. In October, Mr. Jones hired Joe Armstrong, formerly of Meigher Communications, as senior VP-group publisher and gave him the mandate to double ad revenue. At the end of 1998, Worth was up slightly (+2.1%) in ad pages to 876.25, according to Publishers Information Bureau; Civilization, thanks to a celebrity guest editor policy, was up 42.9% in ad pages to 238.89. American Benefactor was folded to become a section within Civilization. To help fuel growth, Worth will launch a supplement issue this year, Suitable Investment, focusing on men's fashion.

Tina Brown 'Talks'

A whole lot of talking went on in '98 about Tina Brown's latest project, but '99 will be the year the Talk magazine makes its debut. How soon we see movies, TV and books based on Talk material remains to be seen. Earlier this month, Hearst Magazines and Miramax Films announced their joint venture to publish the highly anticipated Talk. Publishing was jolted last June when Ms. Brown, The New Yorker's most controversial editor in chief, announced she was leaving to start a general-interest magazine backed by Harvey Weinstein, co-founder of Miramax, and taking Vogue Publisher Ron Galotti as her partner. The trio then went looking for a publishing house to help with back-office costs.

Talk Media executives got their wish when Heart Magazines agreed to take a 50% stake in the new venture, handling newsstand distribution, subscription fulfillments and the like. Talk Media, still owned by Miramax will maintain control of editoral, ad sales and marketing. Executives on both sides anticipate $50 million in costs to launch Talk. Ms. Brown and Mr. Galotti retain equity stakes in Talk Media.

Emap buys Petersen Publishing

Just last October, at the American Magazine Conference in Orlando, Fla., Kevin Hand and James Dunning negotiated what would the biggest publishing deal of 1998. Mr. Hand, president-CEO of European publisher Emap, and Mr. Dunning, chairman CEO of Petersen Cos., negotiated the deal for Emap to acquire Petersen for $1.2 billion in cash. Emap will use Petersen to launch some of its U.K publications in the U.S., such as FHM, Bliss and Smash Hits. In January, the deal was completed, and the newly created Emap Petersen has more than 600 titles in Australia, Europe, Singapore and the U.S. Estimated revenues are $1.5 billion.

The deal is the culmination of several investment ventures led by Mr. Dunning and his partners since their acquisition of Petersen Publishing from the company founder, Robert Petersen back in 1996 for $465 million. Despite the fact that competitors K-III Communications (now Primedia) and others in the industry believed the price paid to be too high (22 times its 1995 earnings), Mr. Dunning led Petersen to eventual success. In June of 1997, a few months before Petersen's IPO, the company revamped its image, redesigning its corporate sales package and its publications, Sport and Teen.

When the Petersen IPO finally hit the market on Oct. 2, the stock sold 7 million shares at $17.50, exceeding the projected range of $15-$17. Analysts at the time valued Petersen, including debt, at $880 million, nearly double the sale price.

With the $1.2 billion Emap Peterson deal, Mr. Dunning has turned what was considered to be an over-priced $435 million into profits of 250-300%. He became president and chairman of the new U.S. company and sits on Emap's board. Vice Chairman D. Claeys Bahrenburg packed up his shares and left to pursue other

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