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Two Premiere Editors Resign Over Column

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Reflecting a drastic change in the editorial direction of one of the movie industry’s most widely read publications, Premiere magazine’s two top editors abruptly resigned Tuesday afternoon in protest after a controversial investigative story about Sylvester Stallone and Planet Hollywood was killed by the magazine’s owner.

Editor in Chief Chris Connelly and Deputy Editor Nancy Griffin shot off a memo to executives at Premiere managing owner Hachette Filipacchi Magazines on Tuesday afternoon saying, “Because we feel that the editorial integrity and credibility of Premiere is the magazine’s most precious asset, we will not kill Corie Brown’s California Suite column for July as we have been ordered to do by ownership. We therefore resign our positions . . . effective immediately.”

Hachette executives said the story was killed because the magazine is positioning itself as a “fan” magazine that will profile celebrities and the movie industry and will no longer run investigative stories.

Sources said the resignations at Premiere come after months of meddling by Hachette executives, as well as pressures from the magazine’s business side to soften the publication so it won’t offend advertisers. Twentieth Century Fox pulled advertising after a recent Brown column examining talent deals at the studio.

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Sources at the magazine said editors were ordered to list Patricia Duff--wife of billionaire Premiere investor Ronald O. Perelman--on the masthead of Premiere’s June issue as an “editor at large.”

Brown said that Connelly--editor since January--refused an order to put “The Nanny” star Fran Drescher on the cover. Brown and other sources said that editors also were ordered to run in the June issue an Oscar night picture featuring models and executives representing Perelman’s Revlon cosmetics firm.

Hachette and Perelman bought the magazine one year ago this month for $20 million from K-III Communications. Premiere has a circulation of 600,000, according to Hachette officials, and is one of Hachette’s 28 titles.

Premiere staffers noted that Planet Hollywood has business ties to Perelman through a joint venture with Perelman’s Marvel Entertainment to develop a Marvel Mania theme restaurant chain. Stallone is one of several celebrity shareholders in Planet Hollywood and actively promotes the restaurant. Marvel is lending up to $35 million to the joint venture and will contribute $1 million in equity to develop and build the first units, according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

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Brown, who is the magazine’s West Coast editor, was preparing a piece that focused on the relationship between Stallone and his former stepfather and business manager, Anthony Filiti, who filed a $50-million lawsuit against the action star and two top executives of Planet Hollywood. Stallone called the lawsuit “personal and frivolous.”

Brown said “we assume it was the relationship between [Planet Hollywood’s Chief Executive Robert] Earl and Ronald O. Perelman that led to pressure to kill a story that was potentially embarrassing to Planet Hollywood.” The story, not yet written, was to appear in the July issue.

A spokesman for Perelman and his MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings said the executive is a passive investor in the magazine and has no involvement in its editorial policy.

Hachette President and Chief Executive David J. Pecker flatly denied that Hachette was acting under any kind of pressure from Perelman, or anyone for that matter, to kill Brown’s column. He said the decision was made based on the new general editorial direction that Hachette wants for the magazine.

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After the company purchased the magazine last year, Pecker said an in-depth research study of readership proved that “Premiere was not looked upon as an investigative journalistic magazine” but more a “fan” magazine where “readers wanted to read about the movie industry and celebrities.”

Pecker said that when he studied Premiere’s competition--US, Entertainment Weekly and Spin--"we made a decision in the fourth quarter of last year that we’re not going to run investigative pieces. We’re not New York magazine or the New York Observer.”

As for Duff, Pecker said that he asked her to get involved in Premiere’s annual issues about women in Hollywood as well as upcoming coverage of the Democratic National Convention.


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