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Posts Tagged ‘Mike Berman’

David Pecker Holds Court; David Zaslav Jumps the Shark

1003_mockup.gifIt’s been a head-spinning summer of celebrity sightings and media maven mashups at 55th and Fifth, but today at Michael’s the mogul quotient was completely off the charts. I knew it was going to be one of those days when Discovery Communications honcho David Zaslav sauntered into the dining room sporting shades and carrying a stuffed shark. Oh, hadn’t you heard? The net’s Shark Week kicks off August 4. Funny enough, David was lunching with William Morris Endeavor’s co-CEO Ari Emanuel. I’ll let you insert your own joke here.

I was sitting squarely in the center of gravity with David Pecker and David Zinczenko and the experience was akin to being a fly on the wall to the lunchtime version of ‘This is your life, David Pecker,” as friends (too many to mention), former colleagues (ditto) and well-wishers (everyone else in the room), stopped by to pay their respects and get some face time with AMI’s chairman and CEO. (“I’m definitely going to call you about that, thanks!”) It was something akin to The Godfather without the tuxes, mumbling and cannolis (David opted for the ‘Michael’s burger and ‘Zinc’ had the Korean tacos).

Zinc (in the interest of clarity, I’ll refer to David Zinczenko by the catchy moniker of his book imprint) has garnered plenty of headlines this year with his highly publicized alliance with AMI, his Random House contract and a new deal with ABC (he’s got his first segment on “20/20″ airing this Friday). David has maintained, by comparison, a somewhat low profile — except for the fact that he was a contender for the top spot at Time Inc. this spring. AMI’s affable chairman (I discovered this man knows everyone — and I mean everyone) has opted to mostly let his game-changing decision of hiring Zinc and the success at the newsstand with his myriad of titles do the talking.

David Pecker, Diane Clehane and David Zinczenko

Fresh off the quarterly AMI board meeting in Connecticut this weekend, there was plenty to dish about over lunch. As you undoubtedly know, AMI publishes, National Enquirer, Star, Globe, OK!, the newly revitalized Men’s Fitness, Muscle and Fitness, Flex, Fit Pregnancy and Shape and several other titles which reach a combined audience of more than 60 million readers every month.  With the birth of the royal baby and the can’t-make-this-stuff-up New York City mayor’s race, I just had to ask David what his tabloid titles have in store. Plenty, as you might expect, but each title addresses a very different constituency. When it comes to news about the royal baby, the ubiquity of the coverage poses a challenges says David.

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Meg Ryan and Judith Regan “Below the Radar” on Table One

1003_mockup.gifThe spring power lunch season has officially begun at Michael’s with plenty of famous faces and talking heads (Charles Grodin, Star Jones, Lawrence O’Donnell) mixed in with the usual suspects today. None other than Meg Ryan turned up with Judith Regan and slipped in practically unnoticed. Ah, but it’s my job to tell you these things.

In the ‘six degrees of separation’ world that is the dining room at 55th and Fifth, Judith and I grew up in the same hometown of Bay Shore on Long Island. Her mother was often my substitute teacher in high school, and we’ve always had interesting chats whenever our paths have crossed. It’s been a while since I’ve seen the famously fiery ex-book publisher and she told me she’s adapted a new approach of “staying well below the radar” while working on her Sirius XM show. “No one even knows where I live,” she said. I knew better than to question the strategy of staying out of the limelight by sitting at Table One on a Wednesday at Michael’s, so we talked about mutual friends and exchanged pleasantries about our families. When Meg showed up, she couldn’t have been nicer as we chatted about our daughters who we adopted from China the same year, are the same age and both wear glasses. (Sorry, but it’s all OTR.) Later, on the way out, we talked a bit more and I suspected she had plenty more to say on the subject but didn’t want to get caught it the crush of folks lining up for their coats. Oh, well. Maybe next time.

I was joined today by Stu Zakim, public relations vet and “transformational executive” (How’s that for a title?) Mike Berman. Stu, a veteran marketing guru who has helped shaped the image of Showtime, Universal Pictures and Wenner Media, struck out on his own in 2010 with his own firm, Bridge Strategic Communications. His current clients include the Montclair Film Festival, now in its second year, and Mike, a turnaround specialist and business blogger who dispenses straightforward strategies on his blog, Berman Means Business. Stu has been working with Mike since last fall to extend the reach of his no-nonsense messaging espousing a holistic approach to building businesses. With recent headlines on media mash-ups and corporate meltdowns, we had plenty to talk about. Since Mike penned his first piece for CNBC’s website entitled “Five Turnaround Tips for Ron Johnson, JC Penney and Others” earlier this week, I thought a discussion about JCP’s embattled CEO was a good place to start. In a nutshell, says Mike, Johnson “was set up to fail — he can’t fix Penney’s.”

Mike Berman, Diane Clehane and Stu Zakim

He explains, “What’s happening with Ron Johnson is a metaphor for what’s wrong with business today. You can’t hire a rock star as if he’s just come down from the mountain top with the solution to every problem. No one person is able to do what he’s saying he can do.” According to Mike, Johnson’s first mistake was expecting an already beaten down team to buy into widespread change without first stabilizing the organization and clearly articulating a long term vision for the future. Letting 10,000 people go among a shell-shocked workforce didn’t help matters, either. “In the classic turnaround, you can be a hero by coming in and reducing staff, closing under performing stores or factories for the short-term, but in the long-term that doesn’t create value and kills the economy. Executives have to ask themselves, ‘How can I make sacrifices for the benefit of the entity?” Because so many companies rely on the slash-and-burn strategy as an immediate solution to stem the bleeding of their bottom line, Mike tells me he no longer works on “classic turnarounds” because he finds them “totally souless.” Now there’s something you don’t hear every day.

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Lesley Stahl, Cynthia McFadden & Lindsay Lohan’s Interior Decorator

1003_mockup.gifEven the arctic temperatures couldn’t keep the faithful away from Michael’s today. The scene at 55th and Fifth was, although celebrity-free (unless you count a cast member from “The Real Housewives of New York City) even wilder than usual. The media mavens (Lesley Stahl, Cynthia McFadden), magazine power gals and honchos (Anne Fulenwider, Connie Anne Phillips, Jack Kliger) and fashionistas (Fern Mallis, Mickey Ateyeh) must have had plenty to talk about because at one point the decibel level hit its tipping point and I could barely hear the folks I was with and believe me, they were worth a listen.

I was joined today by Deacon Webster and Frances Webster, co-founders of Walrus, a multi-disciplinary creative agency, and they have quite a story to tell. If you want a laugh, check out the talking Walrus that touts the agency’s work on the company’s website. Hilarious. The husband and wife team, who first worked together at Mad Dogs & Englishmen, founded their award-winning (Ad Age’s 2012 Northeast Small Agency of the Year) in 2005 and, says Frances, have seen their business grow an astounding 300 percent in the last three years. Our mutual pal, PR veteran Diana Biederman, who is currently consulting for The Humane Society of New York, brought us all together and we had a lively lunch dishing about the ad biz. Deacon is the agency’s chief creative officer and Frances handles the business side as managing director. Their yin-yang skill sets keep things humming at work — and at home. The Brooklyn-based couple gave up trying to keep work talk out of their after hours conversations (“We quickly realized that was impossible,” says Frances) but did decide that having their desks facing each other in the middle of their open floor plan office was a little too much togetherness. They now keep their distance on opposite ends of the office and everything is going swimingly.

I’ll say. Having started their agency with the “21 Club,” Emergen-C,  Grand Marnier, CWX and The Economist as clients when the principals at Mad Dogs & Englishmen decided to close up shop and passed the business on to them (“We went to them and asked if they’d mind if we took the business with us and they were okay with it,” explained Frances), the Websters now boast a roster that includes Amazon Kindle, Bazooka Brands and Bloomberg Businessweek as well as hotter-than-hot Rent the Runway and came up with a funny and effective photobomb video campaign to tout to the fashion site’s growing wardrobing capabilities. They’re also the team that AMC tapped a few years ago to develop a brand strategy for “The Walking Dead” and we all know how that turned out.

Deacon Webster, Diane Clehane and Frances Webster

These days, the Walrus team is busy touting the preventative properties of Emergen-C on social media and in the digital realm and is promoting the message that the cold medicine isn’t just for when the flu strikes but rather a wondrous preventative elixir that is best taken daily (they’ve taken the brand from 5,000 to 531,000 likes on Facebook and counting). They are also working on attracting younger moguls, hedgies and the like to Bloomberg’s Businessweek. “We’re telling younger people that the magazine has really changed.” The good news is, says Deacon, since changing to the weekly delivery system that subscribers get along with their daily newspapers, the magazine is getting a lot more attention from subscribers and “there hasn’t been a lot of newsstand drop off. If people read three issues in a row, they’re hooked.” Their mission now: to find different venues for digital sampling for the consumer and keep the buzz going over their eyebrow-raising covers.

You can check out Walrus’ witty, out of the box thinking on Friday in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal with their full page ads for Smith & Wollensky which explain why scoring an internship at Smith & Wollensky is better than landing one at Goldman Sachs, Lazard and Morgan Stanley. The ads explain, among other things, that “Lazard might know a thing or two about capital markets, but when it comes to creamed spinach they might as well be Lehman Brothers.” Got your attention, didn’t it?

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Hollywoodlife.com’s EIC Bonnie Fuller and publisher Carlos Lamadrid with Penske Media’s vice chairman Gerry Byrne hosting Real Housewife of New York City’s  Aviva Drescher, Sirius XM’s Serena Kodila, Island Def Jam Music Group’s Laura Swanson, Comcast’s Julian Broadsky, Activate’s Michele Anderson and Matrix’s Patrick O’Keefe.

2.  Fern Mallis and Mickey Ateyeh

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and David Zinczenko. One of today’s hot topics among the regulars was “When is Dave going to announce his next move?”  Plenty of folks stopped by Table 3 to inquire. Our lips are sealed …

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Power Lunching with Eliot Spitzer, Star Jones and Joanna Coles

1003_mockup.gifIt’s the last Wednesday power lunch of the year (or the last one ever if you believe those wacky Mayans), and the usual suspects at Michael’s came bearing gifts to be traded over Cobb salads today. Some regulars (Linda Fairstein) were hosting year-end catch-ups with pals, while others (Steven Stolman) broke bread with their bosses. Of course, even if Christmas is less than a week away, there are those who mean business with lunch.

I caught up with Eliot Spitzer while he was waiting for his guest to arrive and asked him how he’s faring over at Current TV. “Nobody’s watching, but I’m having a great time,” he told me. “I don’t mean to be facetious, but I am really enjoying myself. It’s like having a cocktail party with friends every night.” Pausing for a moment he added, “Somebody needs to buy the network.” And perhaps they will, he mused, if for no other reason than to snap up Current’s distribution system.  Either way, New York’s former governor isn’t quitting his day job, so to speak. “I’m glad all my investments are in real estate, not media companies, but if someone can make money at it, great.” Indeed.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Best-selling author Linda Fairstein, hosting her annual holiday lunch for her former colleagues from her days as head of the city’s sex crimes unit. “I love doing this for these women who are all tops in their field. We’ve been having this lunch every year for over a decade, and for one afternoon they are treated like queens of the world,” Linda told me as she placed artfully decorated gift bags at each place setting embellished with the words ‘Boss Lady.’ The incredible women who were taking a break from their usual daily grind of solving and prosecuting the city’s most heinous crimes: New York Supreme Court Judge Ann Donnelly, Karen Friedman-Agnifilo, trial division chief; Audrey Moore, chief the Special Victims’ Unit; cold case division head Melissa Mourges, who just this week got a conviction on the ‘Dating Game’ murder; Kerry O’Connell, chief of the trial bureau; and Martha Bashford, head of the Sex Crimes Unit. Ladies, I salute you.

2.  Peter Brown

3. ’Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and David Zinczenko (Happy Belated Birthday!)

4.  PR scion Steve Rubenstein

The holiday scene at Michael's

The holiday scene at Michael’s

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