Kent Brownridge Leaves Alpha Media for OK

Named General Manager of Celebrity Magazine's U.S. Edition

By Published on .

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Less than two weeks after relinquishing the title of CEO at Alpha Media, publisher of Blender and Maxim, Kent Brownridge has resurfaced as general manager for the U.S. edition of OK, the celebrity weekly published by London-based Northern & Shell.
Kent Brownridge
Kent Brownridge Credit: Joseph Moran

The new post fulfills a long-term goal for Mr. Brownridge, who told Ad Age he had long wanted to work for his friend Richard Desmond, the magazine's colorful British publisher. But a non-compete agreement he signed at Wenner Media, where he resigned from his No. 2 post in November 2005, prevented him from joining OK until now.

New title riding high
Mr. Brownridge comes to the 3-year-old title at a good time. OK's ad pages from January through its Aug. 25 issue were up 31.8% from the same period in 2007, according to Media Industry Newsletter. By contrast, established titles Us Weekly, People, Life & Style and Star are down single digits, while In Touch is up 13.6%.

Meanwhile at Alpha, where Mr. Brownridge remains a minority investor, ad pages at Blender were down 22.4% to 388 from January through September, while Maxim is off 5.5% to 597 pages. Mr. Brownridge's giving up of the CEO title last month looked to some like a reaction to the rough going since Mr. Brownridge's equity backers at Quadrangle Capital Partners bought the company from Felix Dennis last August for an estimated $240 million. The economy in general and the magazine business in particular suffered more than expected in the year that followed.

Last month, Mr. Brownridge said the new management structure was an idea he brought to Quadrangle once the major lifting was complete, telling AdAge.com, "It was a company that needed tremendous restructuring, which quite frankly took a little longer than I anticipated," he said. "I hired over 35 people, including the two new CEOs. And at this point all the pieces are in place. I am 68. I'm in perfect health now, but 70-hour work weeks I don't think I'm going to stand. I also have a new wife who was not happy. My work was done in terms of 70-hour work weeks and dealing with every problem."

Break-even achievement
And despite criticism that OK's launch was one of the more expensive in recent memory, Mr. Brownridge was quick to point out the title's speedy profitability. "There have been many launches that took five, six, seven years to turn a profit. This is a launch that made it to break-even in three years -- and this is a weekly. I think it set an all-time land-speed record of hitting break-even in a short period of time. Three years is astounding," he said.

Although OK lost its bid for the record-breaking Brangelina baby photos to People and Hello in July, Mr. Brownridge has every intention of keeping OK competitive with People, its closest rival in the exclusive photo game. "You have to win the hearts and minds of the readers every week, and you do it by what you put on the cover and what you put inside the magazine," he said. "Do we have the financial resources [to pay for expensive baby photos]? The answer is yes."
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