Having missed the traditional money-spinning September issue, the focus within Harper‘s was on maximising the glimmer of hope October represented for the international fashion brand following months of uncertainty after Bauer Media Group “suspended” publication amid the COVID-19 health crisis.
Instead, they were told that the Mercury Capital-owned Bauer Media Australia was to close the magazine along with other titles including InStyle, Elle, Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Good Health, NW and OK!.
“It’s devastating. We had no idea until the Zoom meeting this morning. Everyone’s head is spinning at present, the whole team … we truly believed we had a very strong opportunity to come back and secure Harper’s future in Australia,” one of the magazine’s devastated staff told PS, on the grounds of anonymity, an hour after losing her job.
The magazine’s former editor-in-chief Kellie Hush admitted she was “gutted” to see the title go.
“BAZAAR has helped to shape the Australian fashion industry over the past two decades and the ripple effect of its closure cannot be underestimated,” she said.
“This is not just a media story, it’s a bigger story about fashion, culture and art and there now being less ways for Australian creative talent to be showcased and celebrated.”
The closures are the first to take place under the magazines’ new owners, private equity firm Mercury Capital, which formally acquired the business from the German-based publisher last week.
Bauer originally bought the stable of magazine titles from ACP in 2012 for $525 million. In 2008, ACP’s magazine stable had been valued at $1.75 billion.
Harper’s BAZAAR globally is owned by the New York-based, family-controlled Hearst media group, which has been closely monitoring the situation in Australia for months.
The Hearsts are old friends of the magazine’s previous owners, the Packer family, however those warm feelings appear to have evaporated since the magazine fell into the hands of the German-owned Bauer, amid recent rumours of increasing frustration in the United States with what was happening to the hallowed luxury publishing brand in Australia.
The company has also killed off NW magazine, the only truly local masthead in the group, which was started by the late Kerry Packer in the early 1990s as a more frequent sister-title to his cash-cow The Australian Women’s Weekly.
Along with the 40 jobs directly lost from the closures, the knock on effect across the fashion, marketing and media industries is expected to be far greater, from hair and make-up artists and photographers, to stylists, publicists, freelance journalists and caterers, who are now discovering planned shoots and stories for a variety of magazines will no longer be happening.
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Andrew Hornery is a senior journalist and Private Sydney columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald.