Chat chap for lads' launch

            Chat editor Paul Merrill

Emap has poached Chat editor Paul Merrill to edit its £8m men’s launch, codenamed Project Tyson.

The new men’s weekly is in development at Emap Elan and is expected to launch on news-stands within months.

Michael Hogan, former editor of Sky magazine, and Emma Cochrane, former Empire editor, are also involved and, according to sources, Emap even tried to tap up Loaded’s new editor, Martin Daubney.

IPC managers were said to be “gutted” by Merrill’s bombshell resignation and tried to persuade him to stay. They wanted him involved with ideas for IPC’s new launches, also known to include a possible men’s weekly.

Merrill – whose Chat is IPC’s fastest-growing weekly title – has been privy to a lot of sensitive information and, although he has signed a confidentiality clause, IPC was thought to be deliberately holding him to his contract this week.

Unlike previous editors who have been poached by rivals, Merrill wasn’t frog-marched out of the IPC building and he has yet to be given a leaving date.

One insider said: “IPC is pretty gutted and the team on Chat were shocked. They know how well the magazine has been doing recently – it would have taken a very sizeable offer and a really exciting project to tempt him away.”

Since Merrill took over the editorship of Chat two and half years ago, he has increased circulation by 100,000. If sales continue closing in on 600,000, by the next ABCs it would be the country’s second-biggestselling weekly after Take A Break.

Emap this week confirmed the planned men’s launch in an e-mail to staff. Emap Consumer Media chief executive Paul Keenan said it would target “blokes” aged 16 to 30 and added that it would be “daring, brave and innovative” and would revolutionise the men’s market in the way FHM did 10 years ago. The magazine is expected to feature celebrities, sex, competitions, jokes and sport, drawing on Merrill’s notorious gift for coverlines (“Silent Witnesses: Only these dogs know who murdered Kate and Linda” and “Fat to Freak: I lost nine stone and grew a third breast”) to which he largely attributes Chat’s success.

News of Project Tyson is believed to have provoked an internal split at Emap where, given its target audience, staff at FHM were said to be “pissed off” at their lack of involvement and the fact they have not been consulted – especially given its potential impact on sales.

Emap has already enjoyed huge success in the celebrity sector with Heat and Closer, the latter of which reported a debut ABC of 334,000.

Emap and IPC have been looking at the concept of a men’s weekly for some time and, as one insider pointed out this week, “if successful, it would be like finding Eldorado”.

IPC has to get the green light from Time Inc in New York before it can launch. It is currently drawing on the experience of former Men’s Health and Later editor Phil Hilton and Sharon Ring, the former OK! editor who worked on the Heat revamp.

By Ruth Addicott

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