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Capped by an ambitious buying binge in the first quarter of 1995, Hachette Filipacchi President-CEO David Pecker emerged as the publishing industry's most high profile executive.

Last week, as he wrapped up another 60-hour-plus work week, he awaited word on his bid to buy Premiere from K-III Communications. He also came to a verbal agreement with Grace Mirabella for her to continue working as a consultant following the buyout of Mirabella from News Corp. two weeks earlier.

But despite the accolades and good press this year, there's little chance that Mr. Pecker, the son of a New York-born bricklayer and a Russian immigrant mother, will ever forget the most pivotal day in his business career: Sept. 24, 1990.

It was his 39th birthday. But it was also the day that Peter Diamandis, then one of the most popular chief executives in the magazine world, abruptly resigned from the company, after months of growing antagonism with the Paris-based owners who had bought the company for $712 million in 1988.

Several of Mr. Diamandis' top executives-who had become millionaires as a result of the buyout-followed the CEO out the door. Mr. Pecker, who also became an overnight millionaire in 1988, stayed on and found himself faced with the unenviable task of trying to push profits back into the acceptable range for the owners.

At the time, flagship Woman's Day was slumping and the early days of the industrywide recession were crimping profits.

"It was one of the most difficult periods of my career," said Mr. Pecker, a financial man who worked hard to become known in the advertising world. Today most of the skeptics have vanished.

When magazines are in distress, they don't call 911, they often call Mr. Pecker. By his own account, he has spent "tens of millions" on acquisitions in the past four years. Among his successes: the '91 buyout of Home from Knapp Communications and the 1992 buyout of Meredith Corp.'s Metropolitan Home.

Eyebrows were raised in mid-February when he announced that the company was preparing to team up with John F. Kennedy Jr. and Michael Berman to launch the political personality magazine George. He begins a road show for advertisers next week and he is predicting "over 100 advertising pages" for the September debut issue.

Total revenues have grown to $793 million in 1994, up about 44% from 1990. The number of magazines totals 25, up from 18 only five years ago. On the electronic side, he's jumped out ahead of Hearst Corp. and Conde Nast Publications with 11 magazines online. By yearend he expects all 25 titles will be available on some service.

=======================================================================David J. Pecker

BIRTHDATE: Sept. 24, 1951, in New York City

EDUCATION: Bachelor's in business administration, Pace University.

CAREER: Manager of financial reporting, CBS Inc., 1979; Diamandis Communications Inc. VP-controller, 1987; Hachette Magazines, chief operating officer, chief financial officer and exec VP-publishing, 1990-91; president-chief operating officer, 1991-92; added CEO title in 1992.

PERSONAL: Married to Karen; lives in Connecticut.

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