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Kelly P. Conlin caps a meteoric rise when he takes over as president this week of Boston-based International Data Group, a sprawling high tech publishing company with revenue of about $980 million a year.

Mr. Conlin, 34, succeeds Walter Boyd, who is retiring at the age of 54.

Mr. Conlin is one of the youngest presidents of a major U.S.-based publishing concern. He moves from president of IDG's marketing services division and corporate VP.

Seven years ago, he was an aspiring student in the Harvard Business School MBA program when he read a profile of IDG Chairman Patrick McGovern and impetuously phoned him. They later met in the company's former Framingham, Mass., offices.

Mr. Conlin's appetite for media had been whet by stints as assignment editor for CNN in New York in the early '80s and as an intern for The New York Times while at Harvard.

After earning his degree in June 1987, Mr. Conlin returned to the New York Times Co. as strategic planning manager in the magazine division. "He has an intensely quick mind. He grasps the big picture and he's a very savvy negotiator," said John Loughlin, VP-publishing, Meredith Magazines.

Mr. Conlin kept in touch with Mr. McGovern and when IDG sought a business development director in 1989, Mr. Conlin jumped.

"I think this is a pretty steep mountain. But it is exciting," he said of his new job. "The core and structure of IDG won't change at all but the market we serve, technology, is going to be changing extraordinarily fast."

At rival Ziff-Davis Publishing Co., executives said they prefer to sell the company to one buyer, but Mr. Conlin said he thinks it more likely will go to several people.

Ziff said it would not entertain offers from CMP Publications or IDG. Asked if he thought IDG would bid for pieces in a secondary sale, Mr. Conlin said, "I think that's a very logical conclusion."

But Gregory Jarboe, Ziff's public relations director, said, "I would characterize it as so much ignis fatuus-delusionary lights that can lead you astray."

Also at IDG, James Casella, 46, was named chief operating officer, a title also formerly held by Mr. Boyd, from corporate VP.

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