A Portfolio of Fish for Lunch

We were at the first public event of Condé Nast’s newly named (but far from launched) business mag Portfolio today, a lunch at midtown’s Four Seasons restaurant. The guest of honor was Google CEO Eric Schmidt, but first a few things we learned and heard:

  • Big advertisers like Fed Ex, Johnny Walker and others — are interested and snooping.
  • Portfolio execs say that despite what looks like a crowded field — business mags for top execs — only 20 percent of top execs read Fortune, Forbes or Business Week. Meaning, they say, there’s a lot of room
  • Tom Phillips, formerly of Spy magazine (yep, he founded it with Graydon Carter and Kurt Andersen), whom we know from his days as an exec at Starwave, when the then-Paul Allen company ran half of ABCNEWS.com, is now doing offline ad sales for Google. Print, radio, that kind of thing.
  • Tom was the third person we’d met in less than 24 hours — one last night, another at the lunch today — who has been newly hired to do Google sales. (We met someone at lunch who’s just joined from Time Warner and will be going down to run the southeast region.) Google is, needless to say, hiring experienced (and presumably expensive) ad sales people.

  • So’s Portfolio. There are a lot of execs with a lot of publishing experience over there pushing the product — even if they’re not completely sure what it is, yet. They’ve already started to divide up sales categories among them — liquor, travel, etc — and are still recruiting.
  • Fish can actually be really good if cooked well, even served en masse at a business lunch.

    Other names at the lunch included Ed-in-Chief Joanne Lipman, one of her two deputies, Jim Impoco, who was looking very well though it had been 10 years since we met him w in Tokyo when he was with U.S. News & World Report and later getting a PhD in some Japanese-y study type thing, Condé business media president David Carey, reporters from The New York Times and ClickZ and others.

    It was the typical careful Condé job, nice flower arrangements on the tables, a big sign with “Portfolio” behind Schmidt when he spoke with Lipman, signs stenciled or painted or something on the stone walls downstairs at the Four Seasons. No tchotchkes, yet, though.

    Schmidt’s speech is supposed to be on the mag’s website later today, but we’ll post our observations, too.