A lifelong quest for an identity

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The Independent Online
JOHN F KENNEDY JR was always determined that his life should amount to more than the tabloid portrayal of him - "The Hunk", the "World's Sexiest Man" and, of course, the tragic only son of the late president of the same name. When he died, it should be his own achievements that people remembered, not the money, the girlfriends or the photograph of him, age three, saluting his father's passing coffin, writes David Usborne.

He had the money to be a Romeo and a layabout all of his life, had he wanted. At just eight years old, he received a fund of $10m from his late father. Today, that fortune is believed to have multiplied many times over.

But with the launch in 1995 of the monthly political magazine, George, he escaped that fate just in time. Thus, he became the founder and editor- in-chief of a serious journal - even though its aim was to make politics accessible, even sexy. For a few shining months it seemed to do well, reaching a circulation in its earliest issues of 400,000.

A year later, he shed the playboy image too, forsaking his role as the most eligible bachelor in America and marrying his long-time girlfriend, Carolyn Bessette. In the second half of his thirties, JFK jr had become a solid citizen.

George, however, was facing critical difficulties. Last month, rumours surfaced that its French backer, the giant publishing group Hachette Filipacchi, was threatening to back out of its partnership with Kennedy when contracts expired at the year's end. He had fretted to friends that he was not getting the support George needed.

Even before this weekend, the magazine's prospects appeared fragile. Circulation had plunged and the monthly was far from profitable. Its start-up investment has been put at pounds 12.5m. Advertising was also on a sharp slide, down 30 per cent in May from a year earlier.

Since the first day that George was on the news-stands, its creator suffered the scepticism of the publishing establishment, which said it would never work. The concern was simple: JFK jr had money and contacts in Washington, but he had no publishing experience, and he went through a succession of editors.

Still, in his quest to prove himself to be more than his headline image, JFK jr surely succeeded.

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