Alpha Media Man Down... Hachette's Home Closes...

Kent Brownridge steps down... No longer Home...

Kent Brownridge

Kent Brownridge

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MAN DOWN AT ALPHA MEDIA: Could it be Alpha Media Group’s Kent Brownridge underestimated the herculean effort it would take to turn around first three — and then two — fledgling men’s magazines? Or did Alpha Media owner Quadrangle Group decide the company, now home to Maxim and Blender after the closure of Stuff, would be best served if Brownridge stepped aside? Just a week after he told WWD his first year in business was “harder than I thought it would be,” Brownridge on Wednesday relinquished his position as chief executive officer. Stephen Duggan and Glenn Rosenbloom will become co-ceo’s of Alpha Media. Duggan was the publisher’s chief financial and operating officer, joining the company in June from Publishing Group of America, where he held the same position. Rosenbloom joined in February as Alpha Media’s president. He was previously senior vice president/group publishing director for the U.S. consumer magazine division of Disney Publishing.

Brownridge will remain as chairman. “I’m going to be a fully involved chairman, but I’m not going to be coming home at 10 o’clock every night,” he said. “I’m going to take summer Fridays, not go into the office every day, and I’m not going to stay past 5 p.m.”

Many were surprised Brownridge was stepping aside, considering the former Wenner Media executive is known for his addiction to work and hands-on style. Brownridge told WWD last Friday that he came out of retirement in 2007 because “I got down to my beloved 200-acre farm…and after a day and a half I discovered that I hated it.” But the frenzied pace of relaunching a company seemed to have taken a toll on the 68-year-old executive. Between working late and time spent on his BlackBerry outside of the office, “I was doing 100-hour workweeks. Even though my health is excellent, I don’t think that would have continued. And I have a new wife who is not happy. There’s been no honeymoon, I’ve had no vacation,” said Brownridge on Wednesday.

Though he claims the long hours were the reason he’s stepping down, others wondered if conflict between him and Quadrangle Partners over the direction of the business was the real reason behind the change. Some close to the company said the partners at Quadrangle, who were described as hands-on owners, were one of the many sending a steady flow of e-mails at all hours to Brownridge’s BlackBerry. Brownridge denied there was conflict between him and Quadrangle.

Sources close to Quadrangle and Brownridge also believe Alpha’s founding ceo could have been pushed aside as Quadrangle looks for a faster return on its investment. During the first year in business, Brownridge folded Stuff into Maxim and hired a slew of staffers, including new editors and publishers at Blender and Maxim and top executives Rosenbloom and Duggan. But business at the magazines still hasn’t gained traction. And while a traditional publisher may take a wait-and-see approach to the industry, private equity firms have less patience. “Loyalty, sentiment, commitment, they don’t care about any of that stuff. It’s all about performance,” remarked one publishing insider. Through the first half, Blender carried just 233 ad pages, or 23.5 percent less than in 2007. Maxim reported flat ad page growth, carrying 388 pages, according to Publishers Information Bureau. Circulation for Maxim declined 1 percent to 2.5 million, although Blender’s circulation was up 15 percent to about 952,000.

“Quadrangle may want more hands-on urgency in terms of taking the business to the next level,” said Reed Phillips, managing partner at DeSilva + Phillips. “They may feel that Kent’s at the stage in his career where he’s better off providing the vision, and working with board level on strategy, not being the person that implements the strategy.” Some analysts also believed that in his new role, Brownridge may search for other deals for Quadrangle.

— Stephanie D. Smith
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