Hachette’s Parent: No Talks With Hearst Over Elle

aug elle.pngAn incendiary story in today’s New York Post has prompted Lagardère Active, the parent company of Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S., to issue a staunch denial.

In today’s “Media Ink” column, the Post‘s Keith Kelly said an unnamed source had told him Lagardère was in talks with Hearst Corp. about possibly taking over the U.S. operations of Hachette’s Elle magazine.

“The most likely scenario would be the creation of a joint venture or long-term licensing deal, similar to how Hearst publishes Marie Claire. That magazine is printed in the U.S. through a licensing deal between Hearst and Marie Claire Album, a Paris-based company that’s owned by Lagardère,” Kelly reported, citing his anonymous source.

But this morning, Lagardère issued a statement saying Kelly’s report was all wrong.

“Following an article published today in the New York Post, Lagardère Active…formally denies being in negotiation with Hearst Corp Group,” the statement said. “There are no ongoing talks on a joint venture or licensing agreement with Hearst Corp Group regarding Elle magazine in the US.”

If that’s the truth, how did Kelly manage to get things so wrong?

Kelly has a long history of citing anonymous sources, and this is certainly not the first mistake he’s made. In fact, two weeks ago Kelly said Time Inc. was revamping Fortune, which a source later told us was not completely true.

Citing unnamed sources, Kelly said Time Inc. Editor-in-Chief John Huey had put together “a high-level SWAT team of in-house and external experts,” to revamp the magazine, although it’s been a balancing act trying not to alienate managing editor Andy Serwer.

But our tipster told us that Fortune is just going through a refresh, which is something that every Time Inc. title goes through every now and then. In addition, our source said Serwer has been in charge of the update since the beginning and his relationship with Huey remains strong — unlike the way Kelly painted it.

As for today’s piece, a Hachette spokesperson told us Kelly had tried to confirm the story but it went to press before his call could be returned. We reached out to Kelly but have not heard back from him.

We’re fully aware of the hypocrisy of calling Kelly out on his anonymous sources while quoting our own, but the truth is that Kelly has produced two button-pushing columns in two weeks that have raised serious questions of reliability. Can one of the bigwigs of New York media gossip be slipping?