NEW YORK — Two years after Jann Wenner poached Ed Needham from FHM to be managing editor of Rolling Stone, another lad magazine has poached him right back.

This story first appeared in the July 12, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Dennis Publishing on Friday named Needham as editor in chief of Maxim, effective July 19. Keith Blanchard, editor in chief of the 2.5-million circulation men’s title since 2000, has been named director of programming for Dennis, overseeing creative development for the company’s television, film and radio ventures.

When Dennis created a similar role for Greg Gutfeld, then editor in chief of Stuff, last year, it was widely seen as a demotion. But sources close to Blanchard, who has been with Maxim since the title’s 1997 launch, say he has, in fact, been campaigning for just such a reassignment for more than a year, having tired of day-to-day editing. Dennis has been increasingly active in other media, creating a film unit and announcing plans for a satellite radio channel in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, Rolling Stone insiders say Needham had difficulty working with Wenner, who is the magazine’s owner and editor in chief. “I don’t think Ed ever got the editorial control he was expecting, and he was clearly frustrated by that,” one Rolling Stone editor said. “Jann just won’t let anyone change the magazine,” added a former staffer.

Should Wenner decide to look inside for Needham’s replacement, the obvious choice is deputy managing editor Will Dana, who has been with Rolling Stone since 1996. A former colleague said Dana has turned down past job offers in the expectation that he would someday be promoted to managing editor. (A Wenner spokeswoman had no comment on Needham’s departure.)

Rolling Stone reported slight gains in both newsstand and subscription sales in the second half of last year, for an overall increase of 1.2 percent and an average circulation of 1,288,324.

Maxim has the largest circulation of any men’s lifestyle title apart from Playboy, but the magazine’s dominance has begun to show cracks over the past year. Newsstand sales were down 14.6 percent in the second half of last year, averaging 724,179. Maxim will report another drop in single-copy sales for the first half of this year, according to a source close to Dennis. On the advertising side, pages were down 16.7 percent through July, totaling 525.1, according to Media Industry Newsletter.

Dennis editorial director Andy Clerkson said the newsstand declines were a result of a cover price increase, to $4.99 from $3.99, that took effect last September. “One of the reasons for doing that was we realized we didn’t need any more growth,” Clerkson said. “We had to make sure we didn’t go much further than [2.5 million circulation] because our out-of-pocket cost would be too high for advertisers.”

This is not the first time Dennis has raided Rolling Stone for talent. Six months ago, Rolling Stone publisher Rob Gregory left to become group publisher of Maxim.