It was a rough Friday for a pair of high-profile (if quirky) consumer magazines. Radar, Maer Roshan’s irreverent, Spy-baiting magazine folded for the third time. A few hours later, 02138—the “Harvard lifestyle” title acquired in May by Manhattan Media, a publisher with big plans for relaunching it and rolling out a series of similar magazines—folded, too.
Searching for the common denominator to the latest iteration of “Black Friday”? I mean, aside from the volatile economy? You could do a lot worse than Ron Burkle [above, right] the elusive billionaire head of Yucaipa Cos., owner of Source Interlink, pal to former president Bill Clinton and supermarket magnate.
Burkle, who owns Source Interlink, the magazine distribution company and owner of Primedia’s remaining portfolio, was rumored to have a strong interest in acquiring American Media Inc., publisher of such supermarket friendly titles as Star and the National Enquirer—so much so that it was said to be a “done deal” at the beginning of 2008. But the sale fizzled, and AMI was pulled off the block, at least publicly.
Burkle, who was vaulted into the tabloid media spotlight for his role in a New York Post payola scandal, was also known to be a silent investor in Radar, which despite folding its print product, was able to salvage its Web site for AMI to buy.
What’s that? Burkle’s too much an enigma to have orchestrated this triangulated deal? Like the Atlantic, I would ask you to Think. Again.
Burkle, of course, had nothing to do with the demise of 02138. But there is one figure associated with both Radar and 02138: Luke Hayman. The Pentagram partner and renowned magazine designer redesigned Radar (Roshan had retained Hayman as a design consultant) and had just completed a redesign of 02138—which I called the “most expensive regional relaunch in the history of magazines.”
Design, of course, had little or nothing to do with the failure of these magazines. Then again, Hayman’s not cheap, and his redesigns were never going to be able to save either magazine.
NOTE: Click here to watch a recent video interview we did with Hayman…