Did magazine publisher Gruner & Jahr purposely inflate the circulation numbers for Rosie O'Donnell's magazine beginning in October 2001? And did they do it to make O'Donnell unable to leave or close the magazine without penalty?
O'Donnell thinks so.
I told you back on January 31, 2003 that O'Donnell had some serious accusations against magazine publisher Gruner & Jahr. They were so serious that she amended her lawsuit against them, charging that they had cooked the books on her magazine.
New information now bears this out.
Some questions about the Rosie circulation numbers were first raised on Friday in a short article by Jacob Bernstein (he's the media reporter son of Carl Bernstein and Nora Ephron) in Women's Wear Daily. Bernstein pointed out that just released hard numbers by the Audit Bureau of Circulations indicated that Gruner & Jahr had been caught red-handed fixing the numbers in their favor. If it's true, the news could seriously damage the publisher's case against O'Donnell for walking away from Rosie magazine.
Gruner & Jahr, for example, submitted numbers for the first six months of 2002 stating that Rosie had sold 480,500 copies a month. But when ABC did their audit -- and this is what every publisher lives or die by -- the number was 278,935. That, Bernstein points out, constitutes 45% inflation.
I don't know why Bernstein didn't look at more of the Rosie numbers, but I can tell you the story just gets worse and worse in the second half of 2002. But it's not what you think. In fact, G&J's submitted estimate for those months -- once O'Donnell's clause had expired -- is almost exactly the same as the number the audit bureau found. So why in the first half of 2002 was G&J unable to know their paid single copy circulation but suddenly got it right from July forward?
I'll tell you why: according to O'Donnell's contract with the publisher, if the magazine didn't meet certain circulation levels, the former talk show host could leave without penalty. In other words: the deal would be off. But if the mag did well and met those standards during the first half of 2002, she would have to remain or leave at her own risk.
Back in January of this year, O'Donnell and her attorney, Mary Jo White, thought the over-estimating of the circulation had only begun in May 2002. That was based on an email they apparently obtained in which G&J officials in the U.S. asked permission of their German counterparts to begin pumping the numbers. But a look back at the second half of the previous year suggests they began the plan in October 2001, when G&J said they sold 500,000 copies of "Rosie." The audit came in at 348,000.
In November G&J claimed 530,000 copies; the audit said 325,000. In December G&J eyeballed 553,000; the audit said 388,000.
This isn't the first time Gruner & Jahr has been caught inflating numbers. According to stories in Women's Wear Daily and Advertising Age, the company inflated YM's circulation by 200,000 when they reported figures for their audit for the second half of 2001. YM's publisher later acknowledged what happened. "The figures were inaccurate and we take ownership and responsibility for that," Laura McEwen, YM's publisher, told Ad Age.
As for this new wrinkle-coming just a week before O'Donnell's trial begins -- a G&J spokesman told WWD: "We have put new management responsibility in place to oversee this situation, ensuring that all circulation figures are accurately reported."
The inimitable, one and only, most fabulous, essential Miss Tina Turner paid a special visit to New York last night. She was in town for the glamorous premiere of Disney's new animated feature, "Brother Bear."
Turner, you see, sings in the film, along with Phil Collins.
And so she came to the New Amsterdam Theatre, home on most nights to Disney's stage production of "The Lion King." And so did the paparazzi who blew off the premiere across town of Angelina Jolie in Paramount's soggy "Beyond Borders." Tina vs. Jolie is no contest apparently.
"We love you, Tina!" was the shout that came from most of the photographers, and they meant it. People go crazy around Tina Turner.
And mind you, she is tiny, about 5'3". She is also quiet. But when she walks, oh those legs -- they haven't changed. She wore black leather boots that came up to her knees. She had on a mini skirt and a tight top too. Her hair was the color of copper, cut in a shag but back to its old consistency from the late 60s and not standing four feet over her head.
On the red carpet, there was one of those disjointed moments from pop culture when you wish you had a camera. Turner was introduced to Estelle Harris, the actress known for playing George's mother on "Seinfeld." Turner was bewildered. Harris seemed awed. It was surreal.
"You're the best thing around," Harris said to Turner. You know, whatever. I wonder if anyone got a picture.
Once we were safely inside the theatre, a publicist came up to Turner.
"Everyone wants to know what you're wearing," she said.
Turner replied, "The top is Celine, and so is the skirt. The boots are Chanel. The hair is Tina Turner and so are these!" She meant the legs.
Did I tell you that Tina Turner will turn 64 years old next month? Hot stuff, huh?
So what's she up to? Not much. "I'm living in France and Switzerland, enjoying my retirement," she told me. Is she gardening? "No!" she said, as if I were crazy to suggest it.
"Even her manager is retired," joked her manager, Roger Davies, who came with her. Also accompanying Turner was her boyfriend, former record exec Erwin Bach, with whom she's lived since 1986.
When the movie ended, Tina got on stage and belted out her "Bear" song with Collins. It's called "Great Spirits," and when she was done, Turner and company split for London without a moment to spare. Collins, however, treated the audience -- including New York Governor Pataki and Oscar winner Marcia Gay Harden with husband and kids -- to a half-hour show. For all you Collins fans, the songs included: "Easy Lover," "Sussudio," and, mysteriously, "Lady Madonna."