Texas Monthly magazine yesterday acquired from previous owner Clay Felker the rights to purchase the financially ailing New West magazine.

Michael Levy, president of Texas Monthly's Mediatex Communications Corp., said last night that his firm had snatched the rights away from Knapp Communication Corp., which last week had an agreement to complete the reported $4.5 million sale within 10 days.

"But we came in this morning and we talked to Felker's attorneys and said, 'Do you want to do a cash deal?'" said Levy.

Felker, who had just taken on the job of editor of The New York Daily News' new afternoon edition, agreed. He also said he would serve as a consultant to New West magazine.

Two weeks ago Levy's firm had agreed in principle to pick up Felker's option on the magazine, which was sold to publisher Rupert Murdoch in a bitter 1977 battle between Murdoch and Felker.

But last Friday, Felker decided instead to sign his option to a third party, New West associate publisher R. Swift Lockard, who reportedly was backed by Knapp Communications President Cleon Knapp's $4.5 million.

Levy, who called the amount of cash involved "a lot -- a fair and reasonable figure," said the agreement is to be finalized Aug. 25. And although he said it is possible the sale will not go through, he added, "It's unlikely."