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TOM Moloney, the head of British publishing giant Emap, was in to see Hearst magazine President Cathie Black recently.

He's exploring either a joint venture or an outright sale of the American version of FHM [For Him Magazine], its bawdy lad magazine, sources say.

Emap is finding it expensive to keep the title going here as a standalone.

The company stormed into the United States in 1999 with its buyout of the old Petersen Publishing operation for $1.2 billion but then bailed out and was forced to sell in a fire sale to Primedia.

At the time, it hung onto FHM as its sole remaining title in the U.S. primarily because FHM was already a strong title back in merry England and keeping a footprint here seemed like a good idea at the time.

With circulation costs skyrocketing and the ad market getting tougher, it seemed wise to find a partner.

The Hearst stable, which includes Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping and Oprah - might seem an odd outlet for a bawdy lad magazine. But the company was intrigued enough by the category to develop a prototype lad magazine called Bullet earlier this year. In the end, they decided not to do it.

After the powwow, Moloney returned to England and could not be reached at presstime yesterday. He's apparently not sharing with U.S. publisher Dana Fields or Ed Needham, the editor-in-chief.

A spokesperson in the New York office of FHM said, "We have no knowledge of it and we have no comment."

A Hearst spokesman said, "We meet with executives from the magazine industry on a regular basis. There is no news to announce."

John Huey may be Episcopalian and Norm Pearlstine is Jewish, but that won't stop them from passing a realistic looking miter - you know that pointed hat worn by the Bishop of Rome and other cardinals and bishops of the Catholic Church - in a ceremony at Time Warner's new corporate headquarters at Columbus Circle on Nov. 28.

The miter is being passed on by Pearlstine to incoming Time Inc. Editor-in-Chief Huey as a reminder of the hallowed Time Inc. tradition that separates church (editorial) from state (business).

The ceremony is closed to outsiders, but about 400 of the media giant's elite - including Time Warner CEO Dick Parsons, Jeff Bewkes, chairman of entertainment and networks; Don Logan, chairman of media and communications; and Ann Moore, CEO of Time Inc. - will be on hand for the party, which is an official thank you to Pearlstine for his 11 years at the helm of the nation's largest magazine publisher.

It's also a reminder that while much is being said about the death of print, Time Inc. the magazine publisher is still cranking out annual profits over $1 billion a year - and only about 40 percent of it comes from People.

To mark the intimate gathering of 400, every managing editor, publisher and many of the top editors inside Time Inc. who hope to climb the editorial ladder will also be on hand.

There's yet another hole in the upper masthead at Mort Zuckerman's beleaguered Daily News.

Colleen Curtis, managing editor/features, just handed in her notice to become supervising editor with Diane Sawyer and "Good Morning America" at ABC News. She reports to executive producer Ben Sherwood.

Curtis said she is leaving in early December. She's been in the top job since May 2004, when she took over for Dick Belsky who was managing editor/features and later managing editor/news before leaving the paper earlier this year. Daily News Editor-in-Chief Michael Cooke declined to comment on the latest defection.

Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved.

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