Emap has eye on style bibles' house

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MAGAZINE COMPANY Wagadon, publisher of style titles The Face and Arena, is on the verge of being snapped up by Emap, the multi-national media company, according to people familiar with the transaction.

Neither Emap nor Wagadon were prepared to comment last night. Nick Logan, the creator of The Face and spiritual godfather to the Nineties boom in male magazine publishing, symbolised by the rise of Loaded and Emap-owned FHM, is believed to have been negotiating to sell the company after buying out a 40 per cent stake that was held by the American magazine publisher Conde Nast. Wagadon also publishes Arena Homme Plus, Frank and Deluxe.

Mr Logan's legendary touch as the arbiter of cool in the Eighties and most of the Nineties has come unstuck recently. The Face and Arena, though still believed to be profitable, have seen circulation slip in recent years. More recently, Wagadon encountered a tough time with the launch of Frank, a new woman's title that targeted late-twenties and 30-plus women with high fashion and off-the-wall articles which eschewed the usual relationship fodder at the heart of most women's magazines.

After six months, Frank was turned into a quarterly after failing to make less than half its launch target of 100,000 sales.

Wagadon executives have insisted that there are no plans to sell any of the titles and that the dip in circulations is temporary. Emap, for its part, has long admired the titles and sources close to the company confirmed last night that it would be interested in acquiring the titles, should they be available. However, Emap is having teething problems of its own with Heat, the company's recently launched weekly entertainment and listings guide. Heat has fallen well short of a targeted 100,000 sales per week and has undergone a recent reorganisation.

Just why The Face and Arena have slid is something of a mystery. According to one theory, the "Cool Britannia" fad exploded whatever desirability cool had left. On this reading it's just not cool to be cool anymore.

Whatever the cause, The Face has lost 29 per cent of its sales over the past year and now sells about 70,000. Arena has endured similar losses over the same time period. If cool is now passe, it still remains possible to launch style titles.

Last year, Wallpaper was sold by its founder Tyler Bruler to Time/Warner for pounds 1m a few months after launch and the title continues to grow strongly.