Slicks and the City

Aaron R. Fodiman and Gregory L. Snow were best friends. In fact, Fodiman was Snow's best man. "Aaron was there when I needed him," Snow said.

The two were cosmopolitan back when you could still buy undeveloped land in Pinellas County and Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous still fueled America's lust for worldly goods.

Together, Fodiman and Snow published one of the first chapters in the history of local magazine publishing. Today, they're still at it — with possibly the most important chapter about to be written.

According to Snow, their friendship ended 14 years ago at Clearwater's Kapok Tree. Then publisher and editor of Tampa Bay Magazine, Snow said he was prepared to present company directors with a $750,000 buyout offer that would have given them 20 times their original investment.

As the 55-year-old Snow tells it, the board did not hear about the offer that day. Fodiman, then president of the company, began the meeting with a motion to dismiss Snow and the board did just that, according to Snow.

"It changed my whole life," said Snow, who chose not to take legal action. "I decided a long time ago that if I had to go to court for things I felt I was owed, I would have to go to court a lot."

The story would be sad — and certainly damning to Fodiman — if it were true.

Snow suggested that board members Fred Horton and Mark Maconi could verify Fodiman's alleged coup. Both said they have no recollection of the 1988 board meeting.

Maconi said everyone involved with Tampa Bay Magazine "felt sorry" for Snow, who originally founded the magazine as Tampa Bay/The Suncoast's Magazine.

Snow brought in Horton, Maconi, Fodiman and other investors when his magazine foundered financially. Each kept chipping in money to keep the magazine alive and protect investments, Maconi said.

Fodiman couldn't oust Snow from the company, Maconi said, because Snow didn't have stock left in Tampa Bay Magazine by 1988. Fodiman shitcanned Snow, then an employee of the company, to save the magazine. "He had to step in to save everybody else's investment," Maconi said of Fodiman.

Snow expressed surprise when informed that neither Horton nor Maconi would confirm his story. "If they take my side, Aaron is going to get real mad at them," he said. "They have a vested interest in the magazine."

It is here perhaps that current Tampa Bay Magazine publisher Aaron Fodiman could fill in some of the blanks. But Fodiman, 64, refused three interview requests. "I will come out as a dog," said Fodiman, who believes Weekly Planet is out to smear him.

Fodiman and Snow, though estranged, still have many things in common.

Both continue to publish a magazine catering to the area's wealthiest residents. Both run in an influential crowd of corporate leaders and nouveau riche. Both have a history of legal and tax problems.

Despite a slumping economy and an advertising downturn, Fodiman and Snow now have company on the local newsstand. Three publishers have launched slick glossies to compete with Fodiman's Tampa Bay Magazine and Snow's Tampa Bay's Best for a decreasing number of advertising dollars.

If history is any indication, they're in for an ugly fight.

Glossed OverCity and regional magazines popped up around the country in the 1960s and '70s, a time many consider a landmark era for investigative journalism. Philadelphia exposed political corruption. Chicago unearthed scandal after scandal. Texas Monthly made a name for itself with ballsy stories.

"When city magazines started, a post-World War II phenomenon, they were alternatives to the daily newspapers," said Jim Dowden, executive director of the City and Regional Magazine Association, which represents 85 magazines throughout North America.

City magazines offered readers narrative journalism with local angles. Local advertisers received glossy display ads that before then had been available only in expensive national magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post and Time.

In the late '70s and early '80s, second-tier cities such as Tampa received their own city magazines. Over the last 20 years, many titles have claimed to be the area's city magazine, including: Tampa Bay/The Suncoast's Magazine, Tampa Bay/The Tri-City Magazine, Tampa Magazine, Tampa Bay Life, New York Yankees owner George M. Steinbrenner III's Tampa Bay Monthly and the first Tampa Bay Metro, published by the late Richard N. Hoerner Jr., founder of the Tampa Bay Business Journal.

Tampa Magazine, published in the early to mid-'80s, came the closest to the hard-hitting style of Philadelphia and Chicago. In its heyday, Tampa Magazine printed uncompromising reports with a dash of sensationalism: "Murder on the Kennedy Strip" and "How Greed and Corruption Killed the Metropolitan Bank."

But the recession of the late '80s and early '90s changed city and regional magazines in fundamental ways. When advertising dollars are tight, publishers play it safe. The first to go are investigative reports that could cause an offended business to pull its much-needed advertising dollars.

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