Maxim’s brief tenure as the kind of magazine that would run a sophisticated photo of Idris Elba on the cover has really, really ended: Page Six reports that current cover star Alessandra Ambrosio found it “odd” that owner Sardar Biglari lurked on set during her (totally nude) photo shoot.
This news comes after the departure of former EIC Kate Lanphear, a respected veteran editor who was steering the magazine away from its old-world chauvinistic lad rag ways and more towards something like respectable. You can change the players, but you can’t change the game, I guess.
Page Six reports that Biglari requested a photo of himself posing with Ambrosio, who agreed under the condition that it would not be published. This is a man, though, who has added his own signature under the title font on the cover of the magazine, so he did exactly that:
She was assured it was not for publication, the insider said.
But the Ambrosio and Biglari photo — with him dressed in white and puffing on a big cigar — was published, splashed in a huge way on a two-page spread under the headline, “A View to Kill.”
Biglari is not identified in the photo, but an insider said the Iranian-born investor, who fancies himself a mini-Warren Buffett, spends a lot of time in Monte Carlo and was boasting to staffers about the photo shoot for weeks.
It’s not usually customary for a magazine owner or publisher to attend photo shoots, even cover shoots—that’s usually reserved for editors and photographers and stylists and anyone with an active hand in the finished product. Biglari’s involvement seems to be due to the fact that Lanphear had left the publication and new editor Glenn O’Brien had not yet been hired, and the 38-year-old millionaire’s presence in the photo spread presumes that his hand wasn’t exactly passive. His company, Biglari Holdings, purchased Maxim in February 2014 for $12 million, adding the title to a portfolio that includes Steak ‘n’ Shake, Western Sizzlin’, and a majority share in Cracker Barrel.
Last month, when news of Lanphear’s ouster broke, a source told the New York Post that Biglari “wants the old Maxim back so he can meet the girls in the edit.” That same week, Forbes ran a piece about Biglari’s business practices under the headline “The Gospel of Greed: How Sardar Biglari Paid Himself $34 Million Despite Lousy Fund Returns,” detailing the way Biglari’s business practices have led some shareholders to file suit against him, citing “gross mismanagement, abuse of control and unjust enrichment (the suit was dismissed but is on appeal).” He also sent unhappy shareholders a report that grandstanded by quoting the book of Matthew.
In a positive 2014 piece from The Street, a financial advisor observed:
I sat in on the annual meeting of publicly held Biglari Holdings (BH), which lasted four hours and was certainly worth my time. Its CEO is incredibly direct, and some might see him as arrogant, almost offensively so. He called one shareholder a “schmuck.” He called the board of a target company “chihuahuas.”
As for Ambrosio, saying nothing can be just as effective as saying anything at all:
“She tweeted it on Instagram,” the spokesman, Milos Blagojevic, at Full Picture Management, told Media Ink.
Asked if she objected to the publication of the photo of herself and Biglari, he said: “We have no comment on that.”
Update, 12/23/15: The headline and first paragraph of this post have been changed to reflect an update to Page Six’s original report.
Update, 1/9/16: Biglari has refuted the claims about his behavior during the Alessandra Ambrosio shoot, and he and Maxim are suing two former employees they claim spread false information about him.
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