The duo would be backed by an $840 million war chest from Willis, Stein & Partners, and would target such leading media prospects as Primedia, executives familiar with the plan said.
Mr. Bahrenburg last week stepped down as vice chairman of the newly merged EMAP Petersen to "pursue principal media investments." Mr. Dunning said he will stay on as chairman and president of the U.S. magazine group. But executives close to Mr. Dunning said he plans to leave after a transition period to join Mr. Bahrenburg.
Mr. Dunning denied plans to leave Petersen. He did say that he may sit on the board of a company acquired by Willis Stein.
FROM $465 MIL TO $1.5 BIL
Messrs. Dunning and Bahrenburg, backed by Willis Stein, acquired Petersen Publishing in September 1996 for $465 million, a price many industry observers pegged as too high. But in October 1997, Petersen went public at $17.50 a share. Fifteen months later, it was sold to British publishing house EMAP for $34 a share, or about $1.5 billion.
Daniel Blumenthal, managing director of Willis Stein, said Mr. Bahrenburg will work with the investment group to evaluate publishing opportunities.
"We have a very high regard for Claeys and have enjoyed our association with him through Petersen's transaction and through the sale to EMAP," Mr. Blumenthal said. "We look forward to finding a new publishing opportunity for him to manage as he did at Petersen."
"We would love to do another Petersen," Mr. Blumenthal added.
Asked whether Mr. Dunning will also work with Willis Stein again, Mr. Blumenthal said only, "Through the Petersen deal, we have developed a network of outstanding publishing executives, and we would anticipate tapping any number of them if we have another publishing opportunity."
Mr. Bahrenburg wasn't the only executive to depart with the finalization of the sale of Petersen to EMAP. Exec VP James R. Guthrie also resigned. Mr. Guthrie, who oversaw corporate ad sales, advertising, promotion and research, said he will look for other opportunities in publishing.
A LIKELY TARGET
EMAP is a $1.7 billion company with more than 600 magazine titles and multimedia products around the world. Its top U.S. titles include Hot Rod, Motor Trend, Sport and Teen.
Primedia would seem a likely takeover target for anyone looking to make a splash with a major magazine acquisition. Its stock has languished over the past year, and the company has long been rumored to be up for sale. Primedia executives,