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Conde Nast Publications President Steve Florio figured he'd step away for a well-deserved vacation last week, and the minute he turned his back-whammo-Hearst Magazines President D. Claeys Bahrenburg shattered the pre-Labor Day calm.

In the second foray into enemy territory in three weeks, Mr. Bahrenburg signed Anne Sutherland Fuchs to be senior VP-group publisher at Hearst in charge of two of the company's oldest titles, Town & Country and Harper's Bazaar, as well as its newest, Marie Claire.

Clearly the corporate feud between Messrs. Bahrenburg and Florio is reaching new heights.

"They are the latest leaders in the 30- to 40-year war between the Newhouses and the Hearsts," said Thomas Maier, author of a soon-to-be released unauthorized biography on S.I. Newhouse Jr., "Newhouse: All the Glitter, Power & Glory of America's Richest Media Empire & the Secretive Man Behind It" (St. Martin's Press).

"I think [Florio and Bahrenburg] are similar in style," he said. "They are both outspoken advocates for owners who want to remain behind the scenes."

Last spring, most of the momentum was heading toward the Newhouse empire thanks to successful raids for talented executives from Hearst, The New York Times Co. and Playboy Enterprises.

Five months ago Mr. Florio stunned the publishing world when he brought back former Vanity Fair Publisher Ron Galotti to be Vogue publisher only six weeks after Mr. Galotti signed with Hearst to be Esquire's new publishing director. In the process, Ms. Fuchs was made senior VP-director of international marketing.

Mr. Bahrenburg may have fired what amounted to a ceremonial warning shot three weeks ago when he raided the Newhouse holdings to sign New Yorker Publisher Larry Burstein to succeed Mr. Galotti.

Last week's Hearst moves weren't without casualties. Carl Portale moved from Harper's Bazaar VP-publisher to director of special projects. Associate Publisher Jeannette Chang succeeds Mr. Portale as publisher.

Reached at her home, Ms. Fuchs tried to downplay the rivalry. "Good competition just makes it all better," she said. "It doesn't heighten any rivalry."

Ms. Fuchs, previously publisher of Elle and Woman's Day, will have her hands full in the new post. Though Town & Country is up 15.5% this year to 324.6 ad pages, it comes after a dismal '93-when the title plunged by more than 1,000 pages from its '89 ad peak.

While Bazaar made a mighty comeback under Editor Liz Tilberis, raided from the British wing of the Newhouse empire in '92, it was showing 688.7 pages through July, a 5.9% decline, according to Publishers Information Bureau.

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