PROFILE: Magrino - a PR woman in full. She had to use a credit card for her office phones. Today, this publicist represents everyone from Martha Stewart to Tom Wolfe. Claire Atkinson gets a great view of Magrino as well as Central Park

Back in 1992, when bankruptcy lawyers were the busiest people in town, a 30-year-old book publicist decided to set up her own agency. She coaxed a business loan from her father, paid for phone lines with a credit card and hired a fancy lawyer on the cheap by giving him armfuls of newly published books.

Back in 1992, when bankruptcy lawyers were the busiest people in town, a 30-year-old book publicist decided to set up her own agency. She coaxed a business loan from her father, paid for phone lines with a credit card and hired a fancy lawyer on the cheap by giving him armfuls of newly published books.

Back in 1992, when bankruptcy lawyers were the busiest people in

town, a 30-year-old book publicist decided to set up her own agency. She

coaxed a business loan from her father, paid for phone lines with a

credit card and hired a fancy lawyer on the cheap by giving him armfuls

of newly published books.



The ambitious young woman was Susan Magrino, who now runs a major

lifestyle agency that represents a slew of top name clients from the New

York Times Magazine to publishing giant Emap Petersen.



Magrino says she knew early on that she had the will to succeed: ’I knew

I had to do something; that drive was installed and if you run a

business, you have to have that drive. But I was always driven by my

interests as opposed to having a five-year plan.’



Magrino consulted a number of folks before quitting Crown Publishing,

her first job after graduating from Skidmore College. Among them was

Susan Heilbron, former general counsel to Donald Trump. Heilbron says

she told Magrino if she thought she was the best and her clients agreed,

then she should strike out on her own.



Attracting the rich and famous



Her first customers were the people she had already represented at

Crown, the Vanity Fair columnist Dominick Dunne and cookbook author

Martha Stewart.



She repaid her father’s initial loan and began to take other clients

such as PBS’ Charlie Rose, who launched his show nationally with

Magrino’s aid. Though she won’t reveal figures, Magrino says gross

revenues at her firm grew 70% in fiscal 1998.



Stewart tells PRWeek: ’I am one of her most demanding and active

clients. I encouraged her to step out. She is a very astute

businesswoman with a variety of clients. She’ll do maybe a designer, the

W hotel, then Vanity Fair and The New York Times. There is an

inter-relationship with all her endeavors.’



Magrino has been inextricably linked with Stewart’s burgeoning business

interests ever since. ’I’ve been working with Martha since 1983, and

it’s wonderful for me to work with someone for such a long time,’ she

says.



Stewart, who vacations with Magrino, says the PR pro rarely talks about

herself, only the clients. ’She doesn’t toot her own horn and that is

unusual in this day and age.’



Magrino’s eponymous agency has grown in the past five years from a book

publicity specialist to a magnet for famous names: the agency represents

Ariel Sands, owned by the family of actor Michael Douglas. But the

magazine division is Magrino’s first love. Among her print clients are

Harper’s Bazaar, The Wall Street Journal’s Smart Money and Emap

Petersen’s Teen.



The agency also has an events division, launched two years ago when

client David Bowen decided the only way to expand his own business was

to link up with Magrino. Bowen initially ran six annual non-profit

dinners, and is now organizing a New York City Opera event for 650

people in September and a 1,000-person Millennium Dresses fashion show

in December in honor of Liz Tilberis, the late editor of Harper’s

Bazaar.



’She has an ability to retain, process and mobilize and can make a

stodgy event an exciting one,’ says Bowen.



Not just a job



Magrino’s pale white office overlooking New York’s Central Park is

dotted with antique furniture. She flips through her social calendar,

which has an event planned on almost every weekday evening. One recent

day included the release of Emap’s results, a lunch with Martha Stewart,

the memorial service for Liz Tilberis and an evening get-together with

Hearst magazines.



Other recent dates have included the launch of Tom Wolfe’s A Man in Full

and Absolut Vodka’s garden party for designer Kate Spade.



For a woman who so closely identifies with her clients, a night at home

is rare. Perhaps the close proximity of her office to her apartment,

just across the street, is too tempting. ’Her work is a lifetime

project,’ says Stewart, an impression that is reinforced by Heilbron.

’Susan Magrino is what she does. It’s not a job - it’s a life, and she

really gives her life to her clients.’



Magrino is truly dedicated to giving her clients the best advice. ’I

don’t make people do something they are not good at. There are people

who don’t like to do TV interviews,’ she says. ’Don’t force them if they

are not comfortable with it.’ Clients are chosen on the basis of whether

the agency can grow with them: ’We talk about what the potential is with

new clients. We want to learn as well.’



Best publicist



The agency is focusing its expansion and looking for mid-level staff in

three areas: the Internet, corporate work and travel. ’Travel is huge

and is getting bigger. We want to grow that division and brand it, and

we are working on a business plan for that,’ says Magrino, who worked on

the rebranding of the hip W hotel. The assignment was one of her most

challenging because the hotel’s management was in a state of flux at the

time.



Magrino, once voted best publicist by New York magazine, is a poster

girl for the modern professional woman. She starts her day at 5:45am,

reads the papers, then hits the gym for one to two hours. She doesn’t do

breakfast, preferring to plunge straight into her calls list and brief

clients on the news of the day.



One friend who did not want to go on the record, wonders if Magrino

needs a respite from her breakneck pace, but she tells of many a weekend

spent reading on Long Island’s beaches. Her list currently includes

Music for Torching. Magrino’s other loves are tag sales and clothes.

Colleague Bowen says she is always picking up old albums for him.



One time during an adventure holiday to Egypt with Stewart, Magrino’s

luggage was lost and she was quite unhappy about it. ’She is very

uptight about her appearance,’ says Stewart. ’She was so upset when our

bags got lost, so we lent her all our clothes, whites and pastels. Now

she has completely changed her palette.’



Despite the inconvenience, Stewart says Magrino rarely loses her sunny

disposition or her boundless enthusiasm. One can safely say that the

loan her father made years ago has been paid back in full, and then

some.



SUSAN MAGRINO - Founder, Susan Magrino Agency



1983: Earns English degree from Skidmore College



1983: Joins Crown Publishing, rises to senior media relations

executive



1992: Founds Susan Magrino Agency.



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