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Death of a true maverick empire

BREAKING NEWS: One of South Africa's most innovative and entertaining business magazines, Maverick, along with its media industry sibling, Empire, is no more. Speaking to Bizcommunity.com last night, Monday, 13 October 2008, publisher and editor Branko Brkic said that in spite of battling for months to keep the two magazines going, shareholder disagreements and unworkable alliances with incompatible media bed-fellows left Mvela-owned Business Century Publishing with no alternative but to shut them down.
And, contrary to rumour, Brkic said he had not left the country.

This closure has been a bitter blow not only for Brkic, but for his co-editors, Phillip de Wet and Kevin Bloom - both extremely talented investigative journalists who, with Brkic, brought a refreshing breath of fresh air to the country's business publishing industry.

Both Maverick and Empire, in my opinion, have set benchmarks for quality journalism.


It is indeed extremely sad that quality publications such as that excellent but ill-fated newspaper, ThisDay, and now Maverick and Empire magazines, end up on the scrap-heap while so many other newspapers and magazines, that don't give a toss about quality editorial and simply pander to the whim of advertisers and unashamed advertorials, manage to keep going.

Mvelaphanda Holdings acquired a majority shareholding in Business Century early last year when additional working capital was needed. The company was started by Yugoslav-born Brkic with help from the Industrial Development Corporation.

Bigger company

Earlier this year, Mvelaphanda executive director Mark Willcox said that he had been in talks with several media groups following a decision to place Business Century into a bigger company due to Business Century not being able to achieve sustainability with only two titles.

The past few months have taken their toll on Brkic, who has had some severe health problems brought on by stress. He is clearly taking the closure of his magazines very badly and one almost gets the sense, talking to him, that he believes he is the only publisher ever to have had a publication close down.

Hopefully, he will soon discover that there are actually very few publishers in this country who have not tasted failure at some stage or other and like them, he will pick himself up and start all over again.


There are many in the industry who do not like Brkic - the majority of whom are simply jealous. He is a maverick in every sense of the word, an idealist in the extreme, and a very canny newsman and writer. It would a pity for the industry to lose this sort of talent.

Hopefully he, along with De Wet and Bloom, will take the lessons they have learnt from Maverick and Empire, however painful they have been, and move forward to even greater things.
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About Chris Moerdyk

Apart from being a corporate marketing analyst, advisor and media commentator, Chris Moerdyk is a former chairman of Bizcommunity. He was head of strategic planning and public affairs for BMW South Africa and spent 16 years in the creative and client service departments of ad agencies, ending up as resident director of Lindsay Smithers-FCB in KwaZulu-Natal. Email Chris on and follow him on Twitter at @chrismoerdyk.
Pretty Good Publication, but...-
Maverick was a great read, but what was the problem with the ad sales? Why couldn't they secure more revenue?
Posted on 14 Oct 2008 09:20
A tragedy!-
Empire and Maverick were my favourite business mags! As Chris says they were a breath of fresh air, in an industry that seemed to spend most of their time sucking up to their advertisers. The editorial team are legends who are needed in the publishing industry! Whatever your next project, we will read and support it!
Posted on 14 Oct 2008 10:03
Amod Munga
Totally agree-
Why not blow it out via the web? Take the mag online and make it digital? I would pay to have access to that kind of content. It would be a tragic loss if all that talent went to waste.
Posted on 14 Oct 2008 10:06
Keep your heads up high Branko!-
How sad is this? Maverick, specifically, was the best magazine I've read - bar-none. But, keep your head up high Branko - this was a quality product. L.
Posted on 14 Oct 2008 10:40
This is bloody awful! Who am I going to have heated one-sided arguments with if there's no Ivo Vegter? Who's going to make business cool without Phillip and Kevin? Which other mag cover is going to fling itself off the shelves and into my Woolies basket with such force and elegance. Where's all that great talent going to go? Branko, you're a genuis of a publisher and you'll be sorely missed. Come back asap.
Posted on 14 Oct 2008 11:29
Sad indeed - Concerned Citizen-
It is sad to lose such valuable publications that gave us extra-quality journalism. Chris is right, the market is full of 'skoro-koro' publications containing 'skoro-koro' material written by 'skoro-koro' journalists. These are the ones that should disappear, not Maverick and Empire. Life is unfair. But it is not the end of the world! Adios!
Posted on 14 Oct 2008 12:10
Mark Stephen
A terrible pity!-
A terrible pity - I really enjoyed reading Maverick! Hopefully there will be some way to resurrect it in the not-too-distant future as I still believe there's a future for such a mag down the line!
Posted on 14 Oct 2008 12:33
Really sorry-
mmmm Maverick was the only magazine i bought (apart from fishing mags). Its really sad to see it go. I will miss the editorial and photography.
Posted on 14 Oct 2008 12:39
Ann Donald
What a pity-
How sad to lose two fine magazines like these, not only because I'll miss reading them, but because their experience will discourage others from attempting to publish editorially strong and independent titles.
Posted on 14 Oct 2008 12:57
Another1 bites the dust...-
and in these tough economic times, there's surely more to follow. Those wise chinese were correct, we indeed do live in interesting times... Great publication, RIP.
Posted on 14 Oct 2008 14:10
Miserable News!!-
I am so sorry to have lost the inspiring and often cutting insights of the Maverick team! It is a huge loss to journalism and to the business community at large. I've never purchased an issue that I didn't devour from cover-to-cover, or have to share with everyone who laid eyes on it. This is the most miserable news! I hope the Editorial team reads these comments and find a way through the stinky mud of SA's publishing industry to give their brainchild new life in the not-too-distant future. Cudos to the Maverick team for producing, arguably, the best business magazine on any shelf.
Posted on 14 Oct 2008 14:25
Both titles will be missed-
Awful news. So enjoyed both titles.
Posted on 14 Oct 2008 14:32
So why close it down? Sell it off to someone who can make money out of it!-
Just because one publishing house is not able to make the numbers work, doesn't mean it is necessary to shut it down. With the right business model and a small team a stable of 2 magazines can sustain itself and even profit! What options were looked at? A buyout/selloff of any sort?
Posted on 14 Oct 2008 14:56
If they were so brilliant...-
why were the circulation figures for so low for Maverick (Empire didn't get the chance to post ABC figures, and if they had, I suspect that they would have been extremely low). This is presumably one of the main reasons the magazine closed - no sales, no advertising and an unsustainable business. However, I did enjoy reading both, although I'm not quite sure what the target market of Empire was, or that selling a media magazine on-shelf was the right distribution model. I hope branko et al will reappear soon.
Posted on 14 Oct 2008 15:07
Deon Schoeman
Another casualty of big-business publishing-
It's no secret that editorial excellence and an independent spirit are no guarantees for commercial success in a publishing landscape where the big media houses control every shot. Branko and his team were shining lights in a dark and stormy sea of conformity, and their idealism and the ability to find new angles, and new stories, set them apart from the rest. It's all about a cracking read, and Maverick (and to some extent, Empire) provided just that. It would be a pity to see such talent sink and disappear. Fortunately, the on-line environment is the new frontier for the independent publisher. Unshackled by huge print bills and uncompromised by flawed distribution channels, I expect Branko and his team to come up with something even better, even more innovative.
Posted on 14 Oct 2008 15:13
Donald Paul
Fragility of the Fourth Estate-
The demise of any good magazine is gut wrenching, but this at such a time in our political/social crossroads is heart breaking.
Posted on 14 Oct 2008 16:49
What a shame-
Maverick and Empire were two of the only decent titles around. Sob.
Posted on 14 Oct 2008 19:20
back to a sad life-
Maverick was the best read I've ever read. I'm only 22 but I could only read Maverick for a magazine. Oh what will inspire me now, what will keep me informed, no other publication out there offers insight? I'll surely miss. Branko keep your head up high, you highly talented bra!
Posted on 14 Oct 2008 19:39
U scratch your my back..........-
i guess its the fact that they were not willing to compromise. advertisers need that sometime. why are the so called "crappy" magazines making it. it doesnt usually matter how brilliant the journalism is...editorial integrity, who makes it on that. time to rethink the strategy.
Posted on 15 Oct 2008 09:17
Fathima Beckmann
In Death there is Rebirth-
Branko, in the many years that I have known you and worked with you, you have continously displayed your stength and determination as an inpsiration to many as you choose to walk the path unknown. Like the Phoenix rising from its ashes know that the future will only bring greater success for you and your amazing colleagues. You do the media world proud with your unique efforts and publications. Each ending is but a beginning. Wishing you health and positivity. _Fathima
Posted on 15 Oct 2008 11:38
Sad but not surprising-
The way so many advertisers continue to demand "extras" and "deal sweeteners" and "value add", and the way so many magazines pander to them, makes me want to puke. This is why editorially strong, sophisticated and independent publications like Maverick and Empire die, and mediocre titles continue to survive.
Posted on 15 Oct 2008 14:07
Sorry Branko - a real blow to business publishing...-
...it amazes some of us that average magazines survive and brilliant ones don't. It is also amazing that there wasn't a single media company with the foresight to purchase Maverick and Empire.
Posted on 16 Oct 2008 13:52
Max Kaizen
Bright treasures snatched from us by sludgy insipid uninspired mediocrity-
"When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him." - Jonathan Swift
Posted on 16 Oct 2008 15:07
We publish because we love publishing-
As many people have already commented, it is a sad day for publishing when magazines of the quality of Maverick are discontinued. As publishers we love, and live our magazines and the roles they play in informing and engaging our readers. But they're businesses too ... and traditional print requires deep pockets and commitment to sustain it. Even as it grows more and more successful, the stakes simply increase. Maverick inspired me as a publisher, and it inspired me as a reader. I didn't agree with all of what was written ... but that's not the point ... I couldn't wait to read the next issue. In today's web-orientated world of small, byte-sized chunks of 'news' and 'information' ... there remains space for good *writing* ... because there will always be a room for discerning readers. But its not a given that advertising will follow content, or that readers will pay for good *writing* ... that's just the way it is. @Branko & yr team: Yes, it hurts. It hurts badly. That's because "we publish because we love publishing" ... and when something you love 'dies' ... its tough to let go. Its time for you to step back. Re-read your editorial columns of the last 2 years. You will find the answers in the questions you posed. I look forward to the next chapter, whatever it may be.
Posted on 17 Oct 2008 16:00
skoro -skoro publications-
everyone is talking about skoro-skoro publications, which are these? The ones published in Claremont, Cape Town? There is this old idealism that all you need is good content and hope/expect advertisers will come. Many tittles fail because of lack of sales strategy. There was simple no space for empire and I think they should have waited for Maverick to perform well first before launching another tittle that burnt cash. Its not a market problem its a management problem.
Posted on 17 Oct 2008 17:23
How will we now make sense of what is going on around us in South Afria? Who will take the time to analyse and inform? Who will tell the real story behind the story. Who will put the real effort in to speak to the sources, check and cross check, and then be bold enough to print what emerges? Brank, I hope you find an avenue to keep on doing what you do best!! Allen
Posted on 20 Oct 2008 13:04
Not ad sales, MISMANAGEMENT-
I am sorry, but having background and inside information into the Maverick and Empire Drama, it was definitely not ad sales, the revenue was there each and every issue!!! It was a pity that the structure and management were not up the cut....
Posted on 21 Oct 2008 15:17