Raunchy skin mag Penthouse and sci-fi and future tech bible Omni were always strange bedfellows, brought together by one factor: the mercurial genius of media impresario Bob Guccione.
Guccione founded the very different magazines — both pioneering in their own ways — in 1965 and 1978, respectively. Now, following a brief interregnum, they are back under the same roof.
Penthouse Global Media announced this week that it has acquired Omni and its trademarks from its former editor, Pamela Weintraub, who re-registered the Omni trademarks in June 2012. (Penthouse was acquired by Penthouse Global Media, a new company formed by publisher Kelly Holland in 2016.)
Also, they’re suing Jared Leto. All in all, it’s a rather odd sequence of events.
The saga begins in 1995, when after almost three decades of publishing visionary futurist content, seasoned with the occasional weird crackpot theory, Omni folded its print magazine. It continued with an online version until 1998, when the digital presence was shuttered on the death of Guccione’s cofounder and wife, Kathy Keeton.
At this point, Omni, which was owned by the Gucciones separately from Penthouse publisher General Media, appears to have passed into legal limbo.
In 2003, Penthouse was acquired out of General Media’s bankruptcy by FriendFinder, a company founded by Marc Bell and Daniel Stanton, which later acquired a group of adult-themed social-media networks owned by Various in 2007. Guccione passed away in 2010, and in 2013 FriendFinder was forced to declare bankruptcy.
Meanwhile, in 2013, a large part of Omni's archives were acquired from Guccione’s estate by Jeremy Frommer, a hedge fund pro and former managing director of the Royal Bank of Canada. He joined forces with investor Rick Schwartz, producer of the movie “The Black Swan,” to form a new company, Jerrick Media, to manage the collections.
Among other things, Jerrick Media drew on this material to launch a new online publication, OMNI Reboot.
Penthouse Media appears to be serious about reviving Omni, to the extent of resurrecting its long-defunct print edition.
According to the company, a new print issue will be ready for production in October, with content focused on the same core topics, particularly “the cultural yearning for science and innovation during a time of political uncertainty.” The magazine will be edited by Weintraub, who as noted, re-registered the Omni trademarks in 2012 and launched a new digital site for the magazine.
Also on board is Ellen Datlow, Omni’s longtime fiction editor from 1981 until its demise.
Which brings us to the lawsuit.
With Omni back in the Penthouse stable, Penthouse Global Media immediately announced it had filed a lawsuit against Jerrick Media, along with Frommer and Schwartz, for infringing on Omni’s copyrights and trademarks, unfair competition and false advertising.
Also named in the lawsuit is none other than Hollywood heartthrob Jared Leto and his development company Paradox LLC. Per the lawsuit, Leto and Paradox are working with Jerrick on projects that would produce original content, including a “futuristic television anthology,” using the Omni trademarks — an allegation apparently confirmed by reports in trade pub Variety.
Talk about a weird saga. And let’s not even get started on “Caligula.”