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Powers also received $50,000 from Binn's ex-employer, Warren, and $100,000 from Derick Daniels, a former president of Playboy Enterprises. Daniels was paid $4,166 a month as Ocean Drive's editorial director for most of the magazine's existence.
Circulation was upped to 50,000, and they were off. From early on — in the manner of Vanity Fair — the magazine threw anniversary parties that became the most coveted invite in Miami. Hip-hop mogul Sean Combs, Hollywood director Michael Bay, New York Yankees shortstop Alex Rodriguez, former heavyweight boxing champ Lennox Lewis, actor Michael Douglas, supermodel Elaine Irwin, and NBA superstar Shaquille O'Neal are just some of the celebs who have walked the red carpet during the 16 years of Ocean Drive fetes. The next one is planned for this winter.
The partnership of Powers and Binn drove the magazine. Binn was "running around selling ads" while Powers "managed the business," Capullo says. They were gregarious, and popular — the public faces. Together they would hit the scene. "We'd go to all the cool restaurants and clubs like the Living Room, the Strand, Bar None," Powers says. "We'd see clients together. He'd come over to my house and go for a swim. Those were good days."
Powers brags that the success of the magazine allowed him to buy out Kramer in 1998 for "$2.7 million, more than ten times his investment."
Over the next few years, Powers expanded his empire by publishing Palm Beach magazine and Ocean Drive en Español, a partnership with Emilio and Gloria Estefan. He also launched titles called Atlanta Peach, Inside Out, and Trump. In 2003, Ocean Drive partnered with Greenspun Media Group — a Henderson, Nevada-based company that owns 30 publications — to launch Vegas magazine.
Binn began to branch out on his own, launching titles in the Hamptons, Manhattan, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. This separation would turn out to be significant in a later split between the two.
Every one of the magazine titles controlled by Binn and Powers followed Ocean Drive's formula of catering to the affluent; if you didn't fall into that category, you'd better be damn beautiful. At a time when traditional print media enterprises such as daily newspapers were trimming staff and shuttering news bureaus, Ocean Drive Media Group and Niche Media were thriving. The simple formula: glorify celebrities and local luminaries.
It worked beautifully. Powers says Ocean Drive Media Group made a profit of $500,000 in 1999. The following year, that doubled to $1.1 million, and by 2004 and 2005, the magazine made close to $10 million. Those figures are pretty much confirmed by later public sales data.
"They made controlled circulation sexy," explains Samir Husni — a publishing industry analyst and journalism professor at the University of Mississippi — referring to the bulk of Ocean Drive's targeted free distribution.
"Controlled circulation in the good old days was for a specific audience," Husni says. "If you were a black chemical engineer, then you would get a copy of Black Chemical Engineer Monthly in the mail. What Ocean Drive does is target those individuals who consider themselves the cream of the crop, and not only get them to see the magazine, but also see themselves in the magazine. And that is what makes Ocean Drive attractive to advertisers."
The success of both companies wasn't lost on Michael Carr, then-president of Greenspun Media. In early 2007, he approached Powers and Binn about buying their companies and consolidating the magazines under the Niche Media name.
Carr and Greenspun bought both Niche Media and Ocean Drive Media Group (ODMG) November 1, 2007. The overall cost of the deal has not been disclosed, but just the ODMG part was valued at $30 million, according to recent court disclosures. In addition, Powers was named president of Niche Media's publishing division, with a $725,000 annual salary plus benefits averaging $300,000 a year. As part of the deal, he signed a noncompete agreement that would come back to haunt him.
"Niche has a group of publications that could end up being the most dominant ones in the marketplace," says Carr, who left Greenspun this past July. "These are challenging times, but the opportunity still exists to do that."
Last December, Niche Media laid off more than half of ODMG's workforce, including longtime editor Glenn Albin and creative director Carlos Suarez. The company also shuttered Ocean Drive en Español, Atlanta Peach, Inside Out, and Trump.
One Greenspun insider who asked not to be named says the only profitable magazine was Ocean Drive. "All of Jerry's titles were closed except the flagship," the insider states. "What company would close a magazine if it were a success? Ocean Drive survived because it is a huge brand."
Powers walked into the Ocean Drive offices at 404 Washington Ave. feeling sad the morning of this past February 17. "No one knew it was my last day," he says. "We called an impromptu staff meeting, and I told everyone I was taking a break. I urged them to maintain the quality of the magazine and to continue to be proud of it."
He shed a few tears before returning to his desk. With the help of his secretary, he packed up his belongings, including plaques, awards, pictures, and copies of early issues. He stared at the first cover with Claudia Schiffer for a good minute. "I put my entire 15-year history with the magazine into boxes," he says. "It was really emotional, but it didn't hit me that I wasn't going to be a part of Ocean Drive until a few weeks later."