Fuller deputy Min in at Us

Wenner head may have contract clash with exiting chief

Less than a week after former editor in chief Bonnie Fuller abruptly stepped down from Us Weekly to work for the American Media tabloid empire, Us is expected to name Fuller’s No. 2, Janice Min the new topper.

As of Tuesday afternoon, no papers had been signed due to Min being on vacation in Italy, but she has been in frequent contact with Us since Fuller’s resignation Thursday.

“She’s due to land here in a couple hours and we’re trying firmly and fixedly to get her onboard, which she has indicated she wants to do,” said Kent Brownridge, general manager at Wenner Media, which publishes Us, Rolling Stone and Men’s Journal.

A former editor at Time Inc.’s People and InStyle mags, Min started at Us shortly after Fuller took charge 16 months ago. Min had initially interviewed for the top job, but was beat out by Fuller’s experience and track record.

Focus on famous

The 33-year-old is regarded by staffers as a capable leader who lacks Fuller’s sometimes abrasive intensity and dogged work ethic (she was known for keeping staffers up late on deadline), but who is expected to carry on her former boss’s tradition of aggressive celeb coverage.

More so than Fuller, 46, Min can “hang with the kids,” one insider said — though one staffer who worked with Min at People added that she could “twist things around and shift blame” if it were in her best interest.

Unlike the one-woman showmanship of Fuller (one staffer called her a credit hog), speculation is that the Min administration at Us will be more of a triumvirate, with power shared by Min, news director Michael Lewittes and West Coast bureau chief Ken Baker.

Brownridge said that Baker’s Los Angeles office, in particular, would be getting more attention under Min. “Janice will rely heavily on Ken Baker. She’s been talking to him more frequently than usual as we try to consolidate our force.

“She has always been a big believer in the L.A. office and I’m sure she will rely even more heavily on it than ever before.”

Under Fuller, Us was repackaged and revived; circulation soared up 55% to 505,005 from 325,322 in the last six months of 2002. Circulation is now 1.1 million.

Piece of pie

Although in size Us is much smaller than the 3.7 million-circulation People, its splashy, gossipy coverage of J-Lo and Ben, and Demi and Ashton has won it a loyal following among the celeb obsessed.

That approach will not be tweaked.

“We feel we invented a formula that worked extremely well, and Janice’s mandate is to continue that formula and to continue our upward trend,” said Brownridge.

The question is whether Min can pull it off without Fuller’s experience and adrenaline.

Some staffers are wondering, “Are we still cool without Bonnie?” At American Media, Fuller will oversee the company’s 14 magazines, which, besides the National Enquirer and Star, include titles acquired when the company bought Weider Publications late last year, such as Shape and Men’s Fitness.

Her salary is likely well above her previous $1 million deal at Wenner, already an unusually high sum for publishing.

Steve Coz, editorial director of American Media’s tabloids, will report to Fuller — a development that has ruffled feathers in Boca Raton, Fla., where American Media is headquartered.

Fuller will remain in New York, where the National Enquirer has a bureau and where Star is relocating later this year.

Meanwhile, Wenner chief Jann Wenner, who once proclaimed, “Bonnie is magic,” was reportedly angered by Fuller’s departure. Lawyers have been pow-wowing over Fuller’s allegedly severed contract and hammering out one for Min over the last few days.

Contract clash

Wenner claims that 16 months ago Fuller signed a three-year performance-based contract worth $1 million per annum; Fuller says she never signed.

Min’s contract will be upgraded and also will be performance-based.

“Janice will have a tailor-made deal that will make her very happy,” Brownridge said.

As for whether it will be upgraded to match Fuller’s, he said, “half of what Bonnie made was based on her performance. If Janice does as well in terms of her performance, she’ll do as well as Bonnie.”

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