Bonnie Fuller — once one of the hottest celebrities in publishing as she jumped from Hearst to Conde Nast to Wenner Media and American Media — is taking the plunge as entrepreneur.
Fuller, labeled an “evil genius” by Gawker for pushing newsstand sales to crazy levels at a time when that was the lifeblood of an industry, is buying the portion of Hollywood Life digital magazine she doesn’t already own from Penske Media.
“After a decade of partnership and co-ownership of Hollywood Life, founder Bonnie Fuller, President and Editor-in-Chief of Hollywood Life, will buy-out PMC’s stake in the company and assume full ownership and operations for the business effective January 31, 2021,” Penske Media said on Thursday.
Canadian-born Fuller ran teen magazine YM in 1989 before she was lured to Hearst to launch the US edition of Marie Claire. She did such a good job there she was tapped in 1996 to succeed the legendary Helen Gurley Brown at Cosmopolitan.
She ditched Cosmo for its more upscale rival Glamour. But her efforts to add more sex and sizzle to what was then one of Conde Nast’s most profitable magazines didn’t work as well at Glamour as they did at Cosmo. She battled with then Conde Nast CEO Steve Florio and Conde’s mercurial owner S.I. Newhouse Jr. before making a stormy exit.
She then landed at Wenner Media, charged with rescuing Us Weekly, which Wenner’s then owner had converted to a weekly. Wenner gave her a bonus every time an issue sold more than one million copies on newsstands.
In an era when newsstand sales still mattered, she micro-managed every sexy cover line at Us Weekly and used what were then wildly new cover colors, like fuchsia, yellow, and purple. She frequently pushed her beleaguered staff to pull all nighters on deadline, shipping to the printer right on deadline.
The mags sold fabulously well, resulting in bonuses — and pay disputes.
At one point while negotiating a new contract, executives at Wenner Media told the Post she had agreed to a new deal. But things unraveled before the contract was officially signed, including Wenner reportedly asking why she flying first class on a cross-country trip back to New York.
“It’s in my contract,” she replied. Wenner, aware she had never actually signed, snapped, “You don’t have a contract.”
In swooped David Pecker, at the time still the CEO of American Media, who dangled a $2.5 million deal, or $1.5 million and a $1 million bonus, for Fuller to become editorial director of American Media, charged among other things with converting supermarket tabloid Star Magazine into a glossy.
She told Jan Wenner she was gone and left that day.
But the newsstand magic she experienced at some of her earlier stops didn’t last forever for Fuller who went on to write advice books like, “From Geek to Oh My Goddess: How to Get the Big Career and the Big Love Life and the Big Family—Even If You Have a Big Loser Complex Inside.”
After taking a year off, she hooked up with Jay Penske, who purchased the Hollywood Life title that was once a print magazine with plans to launch it as a digital title. And that is where she has been since 2009.
Neither Penske nor Fuller could be immediately reached for comment.