NEW YORK — Dennis Publishing U.S. fired as many as 15 people on Friday in the biggest purge in the company’s brief history.

This story first appeared in the September 27, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Andy Pemberton, editor in chief of the music magazine Blender, was ousted and replaced by his number two, Craig Marks. Former Maxim editor in chief Keith Blanchard was also dismissed, less than two months after he was placed in charge of Dennis’ television and film ventures. And at Stuff, half a dozen staffers were let go, including features editor Bill Schultz and senior editor Dawn Yanek. Stuff group publisher Mark MacDonald was also fired.

“Part of the natural evolution of a successful company is to be prudent and reevaluate the cost structure before moving ahead with bigger and better things,” Stephen Colvin, president and chief executive officer of Dennis, said in a statement. “This week we’ve had to make some very difficult decisions to part company with a number of people, some of whom have been with us for a long time.”

While Maxim has completely changed the face of the American men’s magazine market since it was introduced in 1997, Dennis has felt a pinch this year as the title’s circulation growth finally hit a plateau and advertising pages have fallen off. Through September, pages totaled 834.8, down 13.6 percent, according to Media Industry Newsletter. A Dennis spokesman insisted that Stuff, Maxim’s smaller companion title, is profitable, but a Dennis insider told WWD the company has spent heavily on circulation in a bid to keep Stuff just ahead of FHM, a rival title published by Emap USA.

Meanwhile, more firings may be imminent. Ed Needham, who replaced Blanchard as editor in chief of Maxim in July, is said to be quietly bringing in his own personnel. The staff’s nervousness is fed by Needham’s demonstrated knack for keeping major surprises — such as his departure from Rolling Stone for Maxim — secret until the last possible moment. “Blanchard was pretty easy to read,” a former Dennis editor said. “Needham is inscrutable. Everyone there is looking.”