`Time Out' lives up to its name

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The Independent Online
TIME OUT is taking time out. On Thursday, the entire staff of the London-based magazine and publishing company is being flown across the Atlantic for three days of partying to celebrate the launch of the company's latest, and greatest, venture: Time Out New York. The cost of flying out 140 journalists and office staff - believed to be in the region of pounds 100,000 - is being met by Tony Elliott, the company's founder and owner.

"I'm taking the staff over because it is the perfect way to show them what we are doing in New York," Elliott said. Highlight of the trip will be a party on Friday night at the Mesamore-Damont Studio, when over 1,600 guests are expected.

If successful, the new magazine promises to boost the company far beyond the cosy orbit of the British capital, signalling the birth of a new media empire and making Elliott not only much richer, but internationally famous in a way that has always eluded him. Unlike other hippies-turned-entrepreneurs such as Felix Dennis, Jann Wenner and Richard Branson, whose high-profile businesses grew out of the culture of the Sixties, Elliott has been reluctant to risk significant amounts of money.

A former colleague once said: "Tony is a piece of suburban cottage industry. He's essentially a small shopkeeper."

"We've never had the money to do this until now," Elliott said."In the Eighties we underwent a lot of expansion, and it's only in the past four years that we've had the right financial people and the right staff to give us the strength to take on something as big as this."

But a lucrative future in global electronic publishing, rather than conventional print, awaits Time Out. "We have a long-term plan to develop a string of information systems encompassing Europe and North America - not necessarily on paper, perhaps using the Internet. It's a very difficult, laborious thing to produce a magazine on paper."

When it launched in 1968, Time Out was put together on a bedroom floor. It soon became London's bedsit bible. But Elliott remains coy about his ambitions. "There's a huge market for the new magazine in New York,but I'm happy doing what I've been doing. People like Branson are involved in taking companies over. I'm not interested in that."