James Brown, the guru of laddism, leaves `GQ' after a lapse of taste and sales

JAMES BROWN, the creator of Loaded, instigator of laddism, award- winning editor and the man who revolutionised men's magazines, has parted company with GQ after a serious lapse in taste and some disappointing sales figures.

The lapse was a list of the 200 most stylish men of the century published in the March edition of GQ, which came out last week.

Mr Brown was sacked for including "The Nazis" and Rommel on his list.

It didn't help that Si Newhouse, patriarch and owner of GQ's publisher, Conde Nast, is Jewish. Conde Nast would only say yesterday that the Nazis editorial was a "mistake" and that Mr Brown was still editor. However, it is understood he is negotiating his leaving package.

The March edition of GQ attracted complaints from the Anti-Nazi League and Jewish organisations. It had already been a bad week for Mr Brown when the story broke.

The New York men's fashion shows are taking place and Mr Brown was supposed to be in attendance.

Unfortunately, Ronnie Newhouse, wife of Jonathan Newhouse, chairman of Conde Nast International, and another boss of Mr Brown's, is head of press at Calvin Klein.

She expected to be accompanied to some shows by Mr Brown, but he reportedly stayed in his hotel-room before leaving New York to holiday in Puerto Rico.

When the Nazis story broke, he was summoned back to London for a meeting with yet another boss, Nicholas Coleridge, head of Conde Nast UK.

Despite the poor style judgment, the most important factor in Mr Brown's falling-out with Conde Nast was the sales figures for the magazine.

Last week GQ posted its circulation for the last six months of 1998.

A modest increase had taken the title up to an average of 132,000 copies a month.

This is not what Conde Nast had in mind when it lured Mr Brown to GQ in May 1997. Then the title was selling 148,000 copies a month under the previous editor, Angus MacKinnon.

But Conde Nast was watching the lads' magazines Loaded and FHM take the market into the sales stratosphere, each selling more than 500,000 a month.

It wanted some of that action, so Mr Brown was brought in on a pounds 100,000- plus salary.

At the very least, Conde Nast wanted him to bring the title up to 250,000 or 300,000 a month.

In addition to sales, Conde Nast wanted colour. Before Mr MacKinnon, who is universally described as "donnish", the editor of GQ was Michael VerMeulen, a larger-than-life figure who died young from cocaine and alcohol abuse.

Mr Brown was supposed to bring "danger" back to the magazine.

That he certainly did. He gave up drinking shortly after his arrival when, in a post-lunch mood, he threw a champagne bottle through a window.

Drug and alcohol abuse had been part of the formula of Loaded, but it was also a part of Mr Brown's life.

He has described, as a teenager, sitting drinking on a park bench in his home town of Leeds to blot out the pain of his parents' separation.

After leaving school Mr Brown started his own music fanzines and travelled with bands. He got a job on the music magazine NME and rose to become its features editor.

When he failed to become the music weekly's editor, he left but was called back by its publisher, IPC, to talk about a new magazine idea. That idea was Loaded, a magazine about the best moments in your life, which, for a certain kind of twentysomething male, was football, women and drinking.

Loaded became a publishing phenomenon, increasing its sales by over 50 per cent every six months. The formula was copied by titles like FHM and Maxim and it scooped award after award.

When Conde Nast brought in Mr Brown, it promised he would not take the title down- market, but there has undoubtedly been a revolution. VerMeulen may have been colourful, but he had started his own theatre, was friends with David Mamet and John Malkovich and appreciated fine writing.

Mr Brown is credited with having "big ideas" and a flair for taking the ordinary man's thoughts and making them work in magazine form.

He is also acknowledged as a promoter of innovative talent. Those who have worked with him call him a charming tyrant.

But GQ has undoubtedly plunged down-market. The nipple count has increased, the writers have changed and there are a lot more bite-sized lists and snippets of writing.

Conde Nast has also thrown money at the magazine. The promotional budget has increased from around pounds 100,000 to over pounds 650,000. Almost every edition comes with giveaway CDs, CD-Roms, books and magazine supplements.

And yet the magazine is selling fewer copies than when Mr Brown took over. "It is the endless story of the maverick editor," says a rival magazine editor.

"Corporations see them being successful and think `we'd like some of that'.

"But then they become difficult and the corporate structure cannot take the baggage that comes with their talents."

Have Men's Mags Peaked?

THE SEEMINGLY unstoppable march of drink, sex and football across the shelves of newsagents ended last week after figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations showed that sales of so-called lads' magazines appeared to have peaked.

FHM, the fourth best-selling magazine in the world, registered a 20,000 dip in sales over the last six months of 1998. The former trade title for the men's fashion world had risen from sales of 60,000 four years ago to a peak of 775,000 between January and June last year.

Loaded, which started the "laddish" revolution, also peaked. After years of increasing sales by 50 per cent almost every six months, in the second half of last year it put on just 945 copies a month, taking it to sales of 457,000.

Maxim, which increased sales by 21,000 to 321,000 copies a month, is also seeing its rate of growth slow down.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?