You give the impression that you're willing to walk away . . .

Not give the impression. Walk away. No deal is a must-do deal.

Ruthless, but a nice guy

You write about the need to be ruthless in business, sharpening the "sliver of ice" that you say is inside every successful entrepreneur. But you write poetry and seem like a nice guy. How do we reconcile that?

Because you only need to really be that way in very serious negotiations, on a few occasions. Maybe on 20 or 25 occasions in my business life, and I've been at this for 40 years.

You shouldn't go around the world behaving ruthlessly when you don't have to. Sometimes you do have to. There is only so much pie to go around. If you're going to take more than your fair share of pie, as socialists would look at it, then someone else is not getting his. That means you've got to take it away from them.

You sold the U.S. versions of Blender, Maxim and Stuff to a private-equity firm for a reported $240 million. Is this your endgame? Are "lad" magazines -- or all magazines -- a fading business?

I think I've sold about 60 magazines in my lifetime. To me this was just a sale of three more. I still own 50 magazines and websites. We have acquired a magazine since then, begun a joint venture launching five ink-on-paper magazines in India and launched e-zines that reside on your computer, including a Maxim-type e-zine called Monkey that's already making money.

It is true that magazines are going through very challenging times, but this is a very slow decline. It is not a collapse by any means, and there are still huge sums to be made.

And then after all the work, you want to give your money away before you die?

Don't forget to give it all away. And, if you can, develop another passion other than your business.

If I had started writing poetry when I was 30 instead of when I was 53, I would have been a better businessperson, and I would not have succumbed to the idiocy I did in the middle of my journey, where I threw about millions because I had nothing better to do.

Isn't there a risk then of becoming a starving artist?

There is. I cannot deny it -- there is. It's a risk you've got to face up to.