Maxim Strikes Back at Potential Bidder

A media executive who wants to buy Maxim said his plan to turn around the laddie title includes putting former Condé Nast exec Dan Lagani at the helm, along with some of Maxim’s founders.

Andrew Fox, chief executive of Track Entertainment, has been making the media rounds this week, complaining that he offered last summer to buy Maxim from Cerberus Capital Partners for $40 million but that the private equity firm has refused to meet with him.

Lagani, who Fox said has been advising him in the matter, was president of Condé Nast’s Fairchild Fashion Group until March. Fox also said former Maxim execs Andy Clerkson and Aric Webb would be part of his team.

Track Entertainment operates events and nightlife guide sites including Clubplanet.com and Wanttickets.com. Fox said he would expand Maxim’s branded events and continue to publish the magazine but not necessarily as a monthly.

Fox also backed away from reported comments that he would launch a hostile bid for the title and that Maxim would shut down by March if Alpha Media, Maxim’s parent company, wouldn’t sell.

“I was frustrated,” he said of his decision to go public. “I patiently sat on my hands for five months and watched each issue get thinner and thinner. We’re attending the events, looking at the brand. It’s continuing to erode.…If Maxim declines to take me up on my offer, I will put my five-point plan online.”

A spokeswoman for Alpha fired back, denying there have been any talks with Fox. “No meetings have happened,” she said. “There will be no meeting with anyone associated with Track Entertainment.”

With a rate base of 2.5 million, Maxim remains the second biggest men’s magazine by circulation. But it has fallen far from its heyday in the early part of the decade.

Its value is said to have plummeted since parent Alpha bought it in 2007 for about $240 million from founder Felix Dennis. Earlier this year, Alpha was forced to recapitalize its debt.

Maxim publisher Ben Madden maintained that the magazine was on solid ground.

“The magazine and the company is very profitable,” he said. “No one from Alpha Media is going to take a meeting with the guy. We don’t believe he’s credible whatsoever. We don’t think the $40 million would get him a breakfast.”
 
Although Maxim’s ad pages fell 25 percent to 639 in 2009, per the Mediaweek Monitor, Madden said that the first two issues of 2010 are showing improvement.
 
“We’re going to be up probably [in] January about 10 percent, [and] February, more than that,” he said. “And digital is tracking way ahead of the same period a year ago. Our Super Bowl party and all the media tied in with it is going to be the biggest revenue generator it’s ever been. I think this guy’s just upset, because nobody would take a meeting with him.”