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LONDON — Felix Dennis, the colorful British publisher, died Sunday at the age of 67.
This story first appeared in the June 24, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
His company, Dennis Publishing, said Dennis died “surrounded by his loved ones…peacefully at his home in Dorsington [in Warwickshire, England],” following “a long and painful battle with cancer.” The company added: “Felix was a publishing legend, famed for his maverick and entrepreneurial style and, more lately, a successful and much-loved poet. He will be greatly missed.”
Dennis’ foray into publishing was as a coeditor of the U.K. edition of counterculture magazine Oz. In 1971, Dennis gained notoriety when he and the title’s cofounders, Richard Neville and Jim Anderson, stood trial in London for obscenity over an explicit cartoon that appeared in the magazine. While he was initially jailed, he was acquitted by the High Court of Appeal in 1973.
Later in 1973, he founded Dennis Publishing. The company started with a Bruce Lee fanzine called Kung-Fu Monthly, but Dennis went on to publish specialist titles with a focus on personal computers. Dennis was also one of the pioneers of lad magazines, launching Maxim in 1995 in a bid to “take on [lad magazines] Loaded and FHM,” according to his personal Web site. In 2007, Dennis sold its U.S. arm, including the U.S. editions of Maxim, Stuff and Blender, to the private equity group Quadrangle for around $240 million. Dennis’ publishing business had helped to make him one of Britain’s richest men — according to this year’s Sunday Times Rich List, Dennis was Britain’s 199th richest person, with a fortune of 500 million pounds, or $850 million. Dennis Publishing’s current titles include The Week, Men’s Fitness, MacUser and Bizarre.
In recent years, Dennis had forged a second career path as a poet. According to Dennis’ Web site, he began to write poetry in 1999, while recovering from an illness. His published poetry includes “This Is the Way of the World,” a volume published earlier this month with the aim of “charting life’s course from birth through to death,” and “When Jack Sued Jill — Nursery Rhymes for Modern Times,” published in 2006. He also penned his own take on self-help titles — “How to Get Rich,” was published in 2006, followed by “How to Make Money” in 2011. He called the former the opposite of “messianic self-improvement manuals,” advising readers that companies “are not your ‘babies,’ they are tools for acquiring wealth. Try to sell them before they peak.”
Dennis made a cameo appearance last year in “Liberty of London,” a documentary that aired on the U.K.’s Channel 4 about the London department store. Dennis was a longtime customer of Liberty, and referred to it as his “corner shop.” Ashley Boyd, head of service and private clients at Liberty, described Dennis as “incredibly interesting, kind-hearted and an overall true gentleman.” She related that once when Dennis had ordered a table from the store, he offered to “carry it home himself.” “For someone of such affluence, we were in awe of how modest and unpretentious he was,” said Boyd.
Dennis is survived by his long-term partner, Marie-France Demolis.