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Rosie Pulls Plug On 'Rosie'

Rosie O'Donnell abruptly quit her namesake magazine Wednesday, citing a deteriorating relationship with the magazine's publisher Gruner + Jahr USA.

The former talk show host said G+J had been gradually taking editorial control away from her in violation of their contract, and it was no longer possible for the magazine to continue. The last issue will be in December.

"I'm sorry to have to tell my readers and my staff that my involvement in the magazine is ending, but my integrity and name are at stake, and that price is too high," O'Donnell said at a news conference. "I cannot have my name on a magazine if I cannot be assured that it will represent my vision and ideas."

A legal battle is a possibility, although no lawsuits have been filed yet. Both sides have been bitterly feuding for months and have hired lawyers. In a memo sent to employees, G+J said that the magazine would have been profitable soon and that O'Donnell's sudden departure was "shocking and disappointing."

"Gruner + Jahr USA is caught in the maelstrom of Rosie O'Donnell apparently abandoning her past," chief marketing officer Cindy Spengler wrote. "She has walked away from her television show, her brand, her public personality, her civility — and now her fans, the advertising community, her business partner and her contractual responsibilities."

The magazine debuted in April 2001, as part of a partnership to revive struggling McCall's magazine. The joint venture gave O'Donnell and G+J each a 50 percent stake in the business. No financial figures were released on the costs of the breakup.

G+J, the international newspaper and magazine arm of German media giant Bertelsmann, also publishes Parents, Fitness, Fast Company and Family Circle magazines.

During the six months ending June 30, Rosie's total average paid circulation was 3.5 million, slightly below the 3.6 million total average paid circulation recorded in the previous six months, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. It had the 13th highest magazine circulation nationwide for the first half of 2002, according to Advertising Age magazine.

Samir A. Husni, a journalism professor at the University of Mississippi, said the collapse was inevitable because O'Donnell's views and causes were too extreme for a mass audience. O'Donnell, who is gay, has championed issues such as gun control, breast cancer, adoption and homosexuality in the magazine.

Although Oprah Winfrey and Martha Stewart, who also have namesake magazines and demand editorial control of issues, Husni said their perspectives and content are more neutral.

"Try to find anything in Oprah that offends anyone, anything in Martha Stewart Living," Husni said. "Their visions are different. They understand the market. What Rosie does not understand is the marketplace. She wanted a platform for her ideas."

O'Donnell won six Daytime Emmy in six years as best talk show host, but she ended "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" in May, saying she was leaving to raise a family and do other things. Also Wednesday, O'Donnell, whose partner is pregnant, said the family's fourth child is due in December.

By Lisa Singhania

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