Disney to sell Fairchild to Conde Nast

Top fashion publications to combine distinct styles in $650 million acquisition

Media

August 20, 1999|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

NEW YORK -- After a battle between two giant publishing companies, Walt Disney Co. has decided to sell its Fairchild Publishing division, which publishes Women's Wear Daily and W, for $650 million to Conde Nast Publications, the glossy, high-profile publisher of magazines like Vogue, Vanity Fair and the New Yorker.

The deal would merge two of the fashion world's most powerful publishing entities and their distinct publishing styles: the frills-free but provocative style of Fairchild with the no-expenses-spared ethos of Conde Nast, a company that will send luggage overnight by Federal Express if a fatigued fashion editor does not want to carry it on a flight. A Disney executive said the agreement would be announced either today or Monday.

Executives at both Conde Nast, a unit of Advance Publications, and Disney confirmed that S. I. Newhouse Jr., the chairman of Conde Nast, had offered close to $650 million for the company -- which includes influential trade publications such as Women's Wear Daily and Daily News Record and consumer fashion magazines W and Jane -- and that Disney executives had accepted Newhouse's offer. Executives at Hearst Magazines, the other bidder for Fairchild and the publisher of magazines such as Harper's Bazaar and Town & Country, would not comment yesterday.

The sale, which is not the largest financial transaction in the magazine industry in recent years but one of the most influential, will certainly alter the advertising landscape that preoccupies magazine publishers. Fairchild publishes Women's Wear Daily, the influential daily that covers the U.S. fashion industry and determines the fortunes of designers, and W, one of the fastest-growing and profitable consumer fashion titles in the industry.

The acquisition will assure Conde Nast's continued dominance in the fashion magazine industry, in part because advertisers will be offered package rates to advertise in several magazines at once, including Vogue and W.

"It makes advertising rates more attractive because Conde Nast can put W in with the rest of the package," said Roberta Garfinkle, the director of print media at the McCann-Erickson advertising agency. "That's the key. And advertisers will be drawn to that."

And designers said that the purchase signaled Conde Nast's continued confidence in the fashion industry. "I think that, unlike Harper's Bazaar, which has to change drastically, Women's Wear and W are not going to change too much, because they are both so successful," Bill Blass said. "They both have a unique niche in the fashion industry, and they are unlike anybody else. They are daring, but with a certain restraint."

The merger means that Conde Nast will own more fashion advertising dollars than any other magazine publisher. That is an expanding field worth hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue each year and includes advertising for toiletries and cosmetics, apparel and accessories, home furnishings and jewelry.

Apparel and accessories advertisers spent $536 million in U.S. magazines from January to July this year, an increase of 8.8 percent compared with the period a year earlier, according to the Publishers Information Bureau.

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