OPINION: Mansfield’s G&J deal may be his most audacious

For all its great brands - and there are few better than Cosmopolitan and Good Housekeeping - there have been times over the past 12 months when the National Magazine Company has appeared less dynamic than its rivals.

For all its great brands - and there are few better than

Cosmopolitan and Good Housekeeping - there have been times over the past

12 months when the National Magazine Company has appeared less dynamic

than its rivals.



Emap and IPC have provided hundreds of column inches for the media and

business pages with their launches, restructures and management changes,

while some of the smaller players such as John Brown and Future seem to

add to their magazine portfolios on almost a weekly basis. In

comparison, Terry Mansfield’s Broadwick Street massive has been really

rather quiet.



Of course, this is just a question of perception and the whims of

journalists, but it has clearly bugged Mansfield’s successor-in-waiting

Duncan Edwards.



At this week’s press conference he asked - almost rhetorically - why

NatMags’ market leaders got less coverage than some of their smaller

rivals.



The answer, I suppose, is that ’Market leader doing solid job and still

making lots of money’, is not a gripping news story.



But any notions that NatMags is somehow less aggressive than other

players have been blown away in the past fortnight. First there was the

creation of the Affluent Magazines group, then there was the launch of

uk.women.com, and now the G& J acquisition.



The G&J purchase may be Mansfield’s last major deal as NatMags managing

director: it is also one of the most audacious and important of his long

tenure.



Rumours about G&J’s sale have been circulating for some time, but there

didn’t seem to be any movement on that front until a fortnight ago when

The Guardian broke the story ’IPC to buy G&J’. Perhaps it didn’t get the

story exactly right, although sources have confirmed that the two were

talking and it is hard, therefore, to avoid the impression that G&J was

snatched from under IPC’s nose.



Could this deal - clearly brokered at breakneck speed - have been

achieved by most publishing companies? Absolutely not. It needed not

only the Hearst Corporation’s millions and willingness to spend them,

but also the diplomacy and reputation provided by Mansfield himself.



How many UK bosses could go to their US headquarters and get a deal like

this signed off in a weekend? And who else could portray his team as the

white knights rescuing the damsel from the clutches of the dark forces,

without ever saying those words?



However, gentlemanly white knights have nothing to do with it - NatMags

reminded us last week that it is part of a huge aggressive corporation

with deep pockets. It had better be, because the weeklies market is a

cut-throat place to be.



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