Has Kent Brownridge Finally Nabbed Dennis?

Grapevine Declares Quadrangle the Winner, but No Official Word Yet

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Magazine pros inside and outside of Dennis Publishing hear that the auction for the company seems to be complete, with winner Quadrangle Group down to crossing t's and dotting i's on a deal.

Maxim will be the biggest prize for the Quadrangle-Brownridge team.

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There is no official word, even for the Dennis insiders, but the smoke suggesting a Quadrangle win has thickened to the point that observers are convinced of fire. Ron Burkle's Yucaipa Cos. is believed to have also bid on Dennis -- publisher of Maxim, Blender and Stuff -- in the final round last week. One narrative making the rounds has Dennis delaying any announcement about Quadrangle in the hopes that the Burkle team could be persuaded, even this late in the process, to top the Quadrangle bid.

Brownridge vs. Wenner?
If Quadrangle does close on Dennis -- and barring any last-minute change of heart from Dennis founder Felix Dennis -- it will return former Wenner Media No. 2 Kent Brownridge to the industry at last. It will, moreover, put him in competition with his old boss Jann Wenner. Blender and Rolling Stone compete in the music category while Maxim and Men's Journal have some overlap among men.

Maxim will be the biggest prize for the Quadrangle-Brownridge team. The lad craze may have cooled but it hasn't cratered; Maxim's paid and verified print circulation has found a plateau around 2.5 million. Ad pages are off 2.58% in the first half, per Media Industry Newsletter, but its digital and licensing operations are substantial -- with probably plenty more potential. Blender is still finding its way but has grown steadily since its introduction in 2001.

What to do with Stuff?
The biggest question for the new owner will be Stuff. The title's original role was defensive, complicating an effort by eMap to play the lad game in the U.S. with an edition of FHM here. But eMap killed the U.S. FHM last December, so Stuff's preventative role is essentially gone. That could free the brand for improvement and even redefinition, or give the new owners cover to close it and fill its subscriptions with Maxim. Its most recent paid and verified circulation report showed a 4.8% decline, while its 2007 ad pages through June are 5.68% lower than in the first half of last year, according to MIN.

Mr. Dennis hired Allen & Co. to explore a sale of his titles in early 2006, although company executives and their spokesman declined to comment on "rumors" to that effect until February 2007, when they finally confirmed the poorly kept secret.

Observers said the Dennis portfolio may go for somewhere in the range of $220 million to $250 million. If a deal gets done, Mr. Dennis will retain ownership of The Week, his growing current-events weekly.
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