NEW YORK: When the wizards at Condé Nast Publications recently marched a prepress issue of Brides magazine through an in-house review, Si Newhouse, the company's chairman, wondered aloud whether a few of the letters on the cover were a tad too close together.
As it turned out, they were.
Newhouse rarely misses a chance to vet his magazines before they go public and, like a shopkeeper unwilling to trust anyone else's tally, still personally hand-counts ad pages in his magazines and their competitors - even as Condé Nast has grown from just a handful of publications to 26 in the United States alone, and dozens of others elsewhere.
Yet this boss with the exacting eye, who presides over a multibillion-dollar empire built on gloss, style, consumption, fluff and substance, is almost universally described as shy, strikingly ill at ease in conversation, and so unassuming that he rarely draws attention to himself or gives a direct order.
Newhouse (Samuel I. Newhouse Jr.) defies the image of the media baron driven by love of limelight, political influence or money. But largely because of him, Condé Nast - an arm of his family's privately held company, Advance Publications - is unlike any other major American publisher.