Maxim to name owner Sardar Biglari editor in chief

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The December cover, center, with recent issues. (MAXIM)
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Peter Sterne

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Maxim owner Sardar Biglari will be officially named editor in chief of the men's magazine, POLITICO Media has learned. In addition, fashion photographer Gilles Bensimon will be named to a senior creative position. The new appointments will be reflected on the next issue's masthead.

Bensimon, a well-respected fashion photographer who once served as Elle's international creative director and head photographer, has worked with Maxim in the past — most recently shooting the magazine's December cover. That issue sold 100,000 copies at newsstands and became the magazine's best-selling issue in the last two years, a spokesman for Maxim said. 

Biglari purchased Maxim through his personal holding company, Biglari Holdings, for about $12 million in 2014. Shortly after buying Maxim, Biglari announced his intention to turn it into an upscale men's lifestyle magazine, in the vein of GQ and Esquire. He hired Kate Lanphear, then the style director of The New York Times' fashion magazine, as editor in chief and set about relaunching the magazine.

Though the relaunch was critically acclaimed — with Lanphear credited with taking the magazine in a more progressive direction — it alienated Maxim's traditional target demographic and newsstand sales fell 40 percent year over year, sources told the New York Post. Much of the magazine's creative and design staff was gone by the late summer and Lanphear finally left in November.

In December, Maxim brought on Glenn O'Brien, a veteran magazine editor and GQ's former "Style Guy" columnist, to replace Lanphear. O'Brien was named editor-at-large, leaving the editor-in-chief position conspicuously vacant.

A Maxim staffer said that the new masthead title just formalizes what has always been clear: Biglari exercises full editorial control over Maxim. At one point last year, the staffer said, he decided to throw out a nearly-complete version of the December issue in order to completely redesign the magazine. 

The newly redesigned December issue boasted a larger trim size and thicker paper stock and a cover photo shot by Bensimon. It was the first produced with Biglari's new creative team — art and design director Guillaume Bruneau and story editor Jacqueline Miró, recruited by Biglari from men's fashion magazine Man of The World.

Biglari has not been shy about taking credit for the redesigned magazine. His signature now appears on the front cover of every copy of Maxim, right beneath the first "M" in "MAXIM."

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