“If you get in his way, he will roll right over you,” says a former Wenner executive, and this is one who claims to be a fan. In person, Brownridge can come off like The Simpsons‘ magnate Montgomery Burns or former Senator Robert Dole at his most saturnine. That he can do so with a certain deadpan glee earned him the joshing tag “Dr. Evil” from ex-employee and Ad Age columnist Simon Dumenco. Still, sometimes you sensed his subordinates’ raw animal fear. Some years ago, I was interviewing him in his office, and he needed some scraps of data that he (atypically) did not know offhand. So he punched a button on his phone. “Tell [redacted] I need to see him,” Brownridge snarled at an assistant via squawk box, “and tell him I am NOT HAPPY.” Approximately 18 seconds later, said executive stood in the doorway, wearing a wary and likely very familiar expression.
At the same time, Brownridge gives a damn good interview and was at Wenner Publishing throughout the crazy years, so it ain’t all bad. Besides, here’s Brownridge’s choice of office portraits: Steve Jobs, P.T. Barnum, Lee Iacocca and Sun Tzu.