ONLY HALF-JOKINGLY he called himself the "Godfather, the Samurai, the leader, the warrior." That may sound a bit over the top for a publishing executive. But in his world of high-fashion magazines, Steven Florio, longtime CEO of Condé Nast, had a point. Expert at imagining creative ways to win and please advertisers, the charming Florio boosted the company that produces Vogue, Glamour and Vanity Fair to the second largest in the industry during the '90s, when many magazines were flagging. Florio was 58 and died after a heart attack.

BEFORE HE LAUNCHED A musical-parody troupe that wryly skewered pols from...

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