Hotel sacks publisher of new magazine

MANDARIN Oriental Hotels Group has ended its three-year agreement with C. Cheney and Associates to publish its quarterly magazine less than two weeks after the launch party.

Ms Jill Kluge, group public relations manager for the Mandarin, said: ''Essentially, we feel the changes do not necessarily meet our guests' needs any better than before.

''We have tried a new approach, but we really believe that we are now looking to return to our previous style.'' Publisher Mr Christopher Cheney defended his product, claiming: ''We answered the brief from the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group exactly.

''Everything about the publication, from the paper stock to the creative concept to individual articles and illustrations, was approved long before publication by at least three senior executives within the group.'' He also criticised the Mandarin's managing director Mr Robert Riley.

''For some reason, Mr Riley has taken the unilateral decision to terminate the contract. Rather than meet to discuss specifics - something which I have twice offered to do - he has chosen to communicate with us through the medium of press releases.'' The magazine is aimed at the hotel's prestige clientele which is comprised primarily of senior executives who travel to Asia at least four times a year, with an average length of stay of three nights.

The initial decision to change publisher from Emphasis, who had held the magazine contract for 10 years, was announced by the sales and marketing director, Mr Neil Hucksteppe, last September, when he said: ''The time has come to take a fresh look at the magazine and to update the editorial format.'' Ms Kluge said the intention had been to experiment with a new style and content, with a different publisher, and that it had been produced on schedule.

''After dissecting the finished product, we are now planning to consider proposals from other production houses,'' she said.

''Whether these future associations include Emphasis awaits the outcome of discussions that are yet to take place.'' She was unable to detail the members of the group that assessed the magazine and decided to terminate the contract, or to say whether the matter went to board-meeting level.

It is not known if any written complaints about the content of the magazine had been received from Mandarin guests.

The March issue of the Mandarin Oriental magazine was the first produced under the Cheney auspices, and the six-month notice provision in the contract means that, in theory, Cheney could also produce the June and September issues.

Discussions on these matters are likely to take place early next week, after both Mr Cheney and Mr Hucksteppe return from vacation.

The mood is likely to be considerably less friendly than a fortnight ago when the two were photographed in a double bath, clutching the re-launch issue and toasting each other with champagne flutes.

Mr Cheney said: ''Publishing a quarterly magazine for a small chain such as the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group might be said to provide more in terms of prestige than financial reward, but the termination and the way in which it was executed have caused us damage.'' Ms Mabel Au-Yeung, associate publisher at Cheney, said: ''We don't actually know exactly why Mandarin cancelled the contract.'' ''We are very surprised, because the whole works, from start to finish, was approved by them, stage by stage.'' A Mandarin spokesman refused to comment on Mr Cheney's comments.