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"My nickname for him was Dr. Evil," media commentator Simon Dumenco once said of Wenner Media's Kent Brownridge, "because there is actually an admirably playful edge to his evilness." For 31 years, Brownridge has been Jann Wenner's businessman and hatchet man — the guy who took Jann and Jane's little San Francisco rock magazine and built it into a significant publisher, and the guy who keeps all the Wenner trains running on time, occasionally by firing a conductor or two. "[H]e is the soul — the very moral center — of the magazine business laid bare," Dumenco said in that same interview with the Times. "Other grandees, like Jann, try to disguise their ruthlessness with charm and smoke and mirrors, but Kent, God love him, just lets it hang out."

And now Brownridge is hanging himself out — or even, perhaps, being hung out. Mediaweek broke the news last night — and the Times and Post report today — that Brownridge is leaving the company. He's 65, he faced a cancer scare a few years ago, and both he and Jann both say that this is a voluntarily retirement.

But then there are bits like this, in Mediaweek:

But the parting may be somewhat less than amicable. In recent weeks there has been some discussion within Wenner that the relationship between the two executives had been strained.

Or this, in the Times:

Two people at Wenner Media who declined to speak on the record because it was a personnel matter, said that there had been increasing tension between Jann Wenner, the founder of the company, and Mr. Brownridge.

Which therefore made us not entirely surprised when an email arrived this morning from a trusted source who knows a thing or two about Wenner's inner workings:

Kent brownridge's departure at wenner .
Not a retirement....was booted by jann big time after 30 years

True? Who knows. But we can think of any number of former Wenner employees who'd be thrilled to hear Dr. Evil got the ax.

Kent Brownridge Steps Down From Wenner Media [Mediaweek]
Longtime Manager Plans to Leave Wenner [NYT]
Stone Thrown [NYP]