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Forbes Parodies BusinessWeek Style In Pay Issue

May 30, 1987

NEW YORK (AP) _ Imitation can be the sincerest form of flattery, but that’s not what Forbes magazine editors had in mind when they decided to copy the front cover of rival Business Week for their annual issue on executive pay.

The cover of the June 15 issue of Forbes, a national business publication, is a replica of Business Week’s front, which for several years has featured a heavy black headline against a white background with a red nameplate across the top.

The difference is that the name emblazoned on this magazine is ″Forbes.″

″We felt it would be a fun way to do a number on them,″ Forbes art director Everett Halvorsen said Friday.

The issue - which features an extensive report on executive compensation, titled ″The Boss″ - will begin appearing on newsstands Monday.

Spokesmen for Forbes said the magazine decided to do the cover parody as a direct shot against Business Week, which they say copied their idea for executive pay reports in the 1970s.

The ″friendly″ poke is not continued inside; in fact, the only mention of the parody is a promotional line in the left top corner of the cover that plugs a column on ″Copycat Software.″

The three main competitors in business magazines, which also include Fortune, have often traded barbs in print advertising, but the executive pay issue seems to have raised a particular stink at Forbes.

Not only has Business Week copied the idea of chronicling executive salaries, Forbes officials said, it also has taken to publishing its annual report earlier than Forbes.

Business Week published its pay report in its May 4 issue.

″We thought the best way to get back at them was to copy them copying us, if you know what I mean,″ said Bruce Rogers, director of advertising sales and promotion for Forbes.

Rogers credited Halvorsen with originating the idea, which he said was later heartily endorsed by Editor James W. Michaels and Chairman and Editor- in-Chief Malcolm S. Forbes.

″This type of thing could only happen at Forbes where the editors have a sense of irreverence,″ said Rogers.

The magazine has toyed with its logo and front cover before to make a point. In its Dec. 29 issue, editors removed the ″e″ from ″Forbes″ to highlight a report on spending in education, and for the June 1 issue they crumbled the entire logo in a cover illustration that showed the pillars of justices being toppled by a muscle-bound judge.

Business Week editor-in chief Stephen B. Shepard called the spoof ″an act of desperation.″

″It amazes me what passes for imagination down there. It’s nothing more than imitation,″ said Shepard, who claimed Business Week had been gaining market share over Forbes. ″We’re happy they’re playing ‘follow-the-leader’ because it’s the only strategy they have,″ he said.

Shepard called the idea that Business Week copied Forbes’ pay report ″nonsense.″

″This is our 37th annual issue (on pay),″ he said.

Officials at Fortune reacted to the Forbes issue with a shot of their own. Said Gary Belis, a spokesman for the magazine, ″We’ve always regarded every issue of Forbes as a parody of a real magazine.″

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