Rosie is jointly owned by O'Donnell and Gruner + Jahr USA. O'Donnell contributes her name, face and celebrity-friendly cachet, while Gruner + Jahr actually runs the magazine.
Since Rosie began publishing in May 2001 (replacing Gruner + Jahr's moribund McCall's), O'Donnell has butted heads several times with her publishers. However, in recent weeks, things degenerated to such a point that, according to Tuesday's New York Times, O'Donnell told Gruner + Jahr execs that she may be forced to sic her lawyers against her own magazine.
O'Donnell, who has since toned down the litigation talk, is said to be unhappy with the direction of Rosie under new editor Susan Toepfer, a former People deputy managing editor brought in by Gruner + Jahr to help bolster sales and retain advertisers. The publishers also fired Rosie creative director Douglas Turshen, one of O'Donnell's close friends.
As O'Donnell rep Cindi Berger tells the Times, "There are creative differences, which they are trying to work on and hopefully resolve."
In an interview appearing in Mediaweek earlier this month, O'Donnell put it more bluntly: "With the first two or three issues, we were going in the right direction. Then we just took a left down the safety zone. And I don't want to live there. It's boring. It's not what I do."
O'Donnell's gripes seem to be twofold. She doesn't like the fluffy, uplifting tone embraced by Toepfer, instead preferring more emphasis on real-life problems faced by her readers. She also hates posing for the covers.
"I never want to be on another cover," O'Donnell told Mediaweek. "Part of the agreement to do this magazine was that I [would] do only one cover a year, and I have been on the last eight or nine covers. That has been a big problem for me...I hate photo shoots. I would rather have root canal than do a photo shoot.
"Having me on the cover is against the manifest of what I'm about. I didn't make my fame and fortune by selling me. I made it by observing and celebrating other people."
She says the September cover, in which she appears with cast members from The Sopranos, will be her final one.
Despite the strained relationship, O'Donnell seems committed to making the magazine work. To that end, Berger tells the Times, "[Rosie] told the staff that the magazine would continue with the new editor Susan Toepfer, and looks forward to working with Susan and the staff."
Since leaving her daytime talk show in May, O'Donnell, 40, has been spending time with her children and pregnant girlfiend, Kelli Capenter, and making the rounds pushing her new book, Find Me. O'Donnell also recently made headlines for doing a standup routine that trashed such celebrities as Michael Jackson, Sharon Stone, Oprah Winfrey and Bill Clinton and appearing on the Nickelodeon special My Family Is Different about the children of gay and lesbian parents, which drew the ire of conservative activists and family groups.
Meanwhile, barring any lawsuits, O'Donnell still thinks the future is rosy for Rosie. "This magazine is going to be phenomenally successful," O'Donnell told Mediaweek. "It's just the beginning."