OK! debuts, and celebs are richer for it

After much hoopla, editor-wranging and dire predictions of celeb tabloid wars, OK! Magazine has debuted Stateside. The maiden issue features a “World Exclusive” cover of Jessica Simpson, who is nothing if not exclusive these days. The difference is, OK! paid for it.

The mag has no qualms about “checkbook journalism” wherein they pay celebrities for access and offer them editorial approval (OK! CEO Christian Toksvig calls it “relationship journalism,” per USA Today). Page Six reports that Simpson was paid $200,000 for the cover story (it also reports that the original cover was supposed to be a creepy father-daughter shot of Jess and Daddy/manager Joe).

Speaking of creepy fathers: Page Six also reports that Michael Jackson has sold his story to OK! for $2 million (which should bulk up his dwindling cash flow). It will be his first since he was found not guilty on child molestation charges. Jackson also got approval for the story, natch. It runs next week.

OK! had a first print run of 1.3 million copies. The NY office currently has 60 employees (with one more to come in April 2006 when her contract with Wenner runs out!). In the meantime, Page Six says that EIC Sarah Ivens is very excited to keep its stable of celebrities looking as glamorous as possible.

New mag buys Jacko for $2M [NYP]
British Mag Makes Scene [USA Today]