The Erotic Review falls into bed with Penthouse

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The Independent Online

The Erotic Review has been the repository for the musings of some of the best-known writers of the age, from Auberon Waugh toD B C Pierre, but the upmarket favourite read of louche old colonels everywhere has come to the end of an era following its sale to the publisher of Penthouse UK.

The Erotic Review has been the repository for the musings of some of the best-known writers of the age, from Auberon Waugh toD B C Pierre, but the upmarket favourite read of louche old colonels everywhere has come to the end of an era following its sale to the publisher of Penthouse UK.

The surprise change of ownership prompted its founding editor, Rowan Pelling, and her entire staff to quit. Ms Pelling, who writes a column for The Independent on Sunday and is one of the judges on this year's Man Booker prize panel, left by "mutual agreement" on Thursday, together with the magazine's staff of five.

The team felt it was not feasible to continue under the new owners, who are moving the title from its Soho heartland to Cobham in Surrey. "We're absolutely gutted, Ms Pelling said. "We loved working for the magazine and it's a terribly sad day."

Just last year The Erotic Review was bought by Dennis Publishing, the magazine company owned by Felix Dennis, whose other titles include the men's magazine Maxim, the current affairs journal The Week and Viz.

Dennis invested in the title, turning it into a glossier product that would sit more easily alongside other magazines in its stable, but KerinO'Connor, deputy managing director of Dennis Consumer Publishing, said yesterday: "Alton Russell International approached Dennis a few weeks ago. We gave The Erotic Review a good chance. Felix liked the magazine and I think he wanted to give it a go, but it's quite a hard magazine to publish for a company of our size."

One of the team behind the buyout is Deric Botham, who was one of the key lieutenants in the former porn magazine empire of the Express Newspapers owner Richard Desmond, before he quit to set up as a pornography publisher in his own right.

The Daily Express owner launched an action against Mr Botham in November 2001, claiming that he had taken confidential material with him when he left, but the case collapsed.

The Erotic Review started as a newsletter sent out to members of the Erotic Print Society. Ms Pelling joined the company in 1996 and over the next few years set about turning it into a fully fledged magazine, offering a very different form of titillation to top-shelf titles. What marked the magazine out was its illustrious list of contributors, many of whom frequent the Academy Club in Lexington Street, Soho.

In the early days the likes of Barry Humphries and Simon Raven wrote for the magazine. The Erotic Review published the first short story by the Booker winner D B C Pierre - "a fantastically pornographic story about a man in a hospital". Alain de Botton, India Knight, Kathy Lette, Sarah Waters and Michel Faber are just some of the other well-known names to have featured in its pages.

Most sales come from subscriptions. At its peak the magazine sold about 22,000 copies, although this has droppedto about 13,500.

In 2001, the title parted company with the Erotic Print Society. "It's very difficult for a book company to publish a magazine. We were pulling in different directions, Ms Pelling said.

The editor, or "editrice" as she described herself, threw all her energy into raising money to keep the title going - she and her staff even took their clothes off to pose for one memorable issue. Ms Pelling won the day, buying the magazine for a nominal £1. Two years later, she sold the majority shareholding to Dennis.

The Erotic Review is just one of four titles that Dennis Publishing has cast off in recent months. In July, Dennis closed Jack, the pocket-sized men's magazine launched by the former Loaded editor James Brown, saying the title was not commercially viable. The publisher has also sold two computer titles to Future Publishing, but Mr O'Connor insisted that the sale of The Erotic Review was not part of a wider cull.

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