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Lang Agrees to Sell Sassy Magazine to Publisher of Teen

October 20, 1994

NEW YORK (AP) _ The publisher of Teen magazine has tentatively agreed to buy its brash rival Sassy and plans to keep both magazines for teen-age girls alive, it was announced Thursday.

Privately-held Petersen Publishing Co. of Los Angeles signed a letter of intent to buy Sassy’s assets, said Dale Lang, chairman of Lang Communications, adding that he hopes to close the deal in 30 days

In the meantime, Lang said he dismissed Sassy’s entire staff of about 35 employees with severance, saying the November issue of the magazine would be the last published under the current management.

Jay Cole, publisher of Teen, said however that there will be no break in publishing Sassy, as Petersen intends to have a December-January issue. He said he has begun interviewing some ex-Sassy staffers as well as others about a new staff.

Cole said the magazines complement each other. He said Teen appeals to girls in high school while Sassy appeals to older teens and young women.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Lang had been looking for a buyer or a partner for several months.

Sassy magazine, founded in early 1988, established a reputation for its bold discussion of controversial issues facing teens like incest and date rape.

Martin Walker, a magazine consultant, said Teen and Sassy are polar opposites in editorial approach.

″Teen is very Middle America, very square, the squarest of all teen magazines. Sassy was the most irreverent, the cheekiest, the most on the edge,″ he said. He said the two make a good match.

Cole, who said he will initially oversee Sassy, said Sassy’s editorial approach will be refined.

″One difference is this will be a very responsible publication,″ he said, adding that the magazine ″lacked some degree of responsibility″ in the past by treating some topics in a sensational way.

Walker said Petersen may find it tough to retain Sassy’s former edge and appeal for older teens, however, particularly with a new staff.

Sassy ranks fourth in circulation at 800,000 among the four monthly magazines aimed at teen girls. Seventeen is the leader at more than 1.9 million for the latest six-month period, followed by YM at more than 1.8 million and Teen at nearly 1.2 million, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

Lang Communications acquired control of the magazine in 1989 from its founder Matilda Publications as advertisers were growing increasingly agitated over its frank style. The situation stabilized under Lang’s ownership.

But except for a brief period in 1992, Lang spokeswoman Joan Elliott said the magazine was never profitable.

Speculation about Sassy’s ownership hurt ad sales this year, Elliott said. Through September, ad pages were off 10.2 percent at Sassy while pages rose 4.4 percent at YM, 5.7 percent at Seventeen and 16.3 percent at Teen.

Lang Communications profitably publishes three other ad-supported magazines, Working Woman, Working Mother and Success, as well as Ms. which takes no ads.

Petersen has about 28 monthly and bimonthly magazines including with Sport, Motor Trend, Golfing and Hot Rod.

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