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The executive shuffle continued at Petersen Cos. last week when Polly Perkins unexpectedly resigned as president of the Sport Group.

Vice Chairman D. Claeys Bahren~burg will assume Ms. Perkins' duties beginning this week.

The move comes as the $247 million company gets ready to launch a sales plan that will bunch 15 newly acquired extreme-sports titles with the publisher's five other sports magazines.


Ms. Perkins' departure and Mr. Bahrenburg's new responsibilities follows the abrupt departure in June of President Neal Vitale; he left on the same day Petersen announced the hiring of former TBWA Chiat/Day media executive Stacy Lippman as president of the Petersen brand and marketing manager.

In another recent move, Amy Wilkins left as president of the Petersen Youth Group at the end of July and was succeeded by Lynn Lehmkuhl, former group publisher of Walt Disney Co.'s Kids' Magazine Division.

"Claeys picking up line responsibilities clearly signals change," as does the recent hiring of outside executives, said Petersen Chairman-CEO Jim Dunning. "We have aggressive plans for the future and we needed to go outside for new talent that would be able to take us to the next level."

Mr. Dunning until recently had kept a lower profile than publishing veterans Messrs. Vitale and Bahrenburg. But Mr. Dunning is now believed to be more active in day-to-day management of the company.

Mr. Dunning declined comment on additional details of the new sales program for the sports group; an announcement is expected in the next month.

Ms. Perkins last week said, "[Petersen] is a very exciting company. But it is going through a lot of transitions right now, and Claeys and I both agreed that there just wasn't room for me at Sport any more."

Gib Chapman, Sport publisher since June, will continue day-to-day ad sales duties.


The monthly -- competing against two weeklies, Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News, as well as newcomer ESPN the Magazine, published every other week -- has an uphill climb. Ad pages through August were down 6.2% to 223.65, according to Publishers Information Bureau figures. Circulation declined 4.8% in the first half to 751,059, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

Petersen acquired Inside Sports from Century Publishing in June, and plans to increase Sport's rate base from 750,000 to 1 million in January.


Under Mr. Bahrenburg's direction, Petersen also has moved aggressively to acquire niche sporting titles to include under the Sport Group umbrella, including Surfer Publications and edgy basketball title Slam.

Mr. Dunning said these additions led to Ms. Perkins' departure as more responsibilities came under Mr. Bahrenburg.

Despite the executive changes, Petersen's stock price is still outperforming the market, according to Trace Urdan, media analyst at BT/Alex Brown, who said year-to-date, Petersen's stock has risen 25.5%. "We see this as the natural evolution of a new company," Mr. Urdan said. "It may be a reality check of the strategy of banding together niche titles and packaging them for mainstream advertisers. Perhaps it is an indication that it is not working as smoothly as they had hoped."

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