Magazines. Eight months after its acquisition of Time Inc., Meredith Corp is selling Time Magazine to Salesforce founder Marc Benioff and his wife Lynne – for $190m. The Benioffs are buying it personally (not through Salesforce) and say they won’t play a role in daily operations or editorial decisions. The sale process for Time and the other three magazines (Fortune, Sports, Illustrated and Money) still being negotiated, has been much more protracted than Meredith had forecast but the price of this first deal may be almost double what had been expected. The legendary news magazine reportedly had $173m revenue and $33m of EBITDA profit in 2017. This profit figure is believed to have been ‘adjusted’ to include large-scale reduction in costs including some traditionally high central overheads, before and since the Meredith acquisition. It’s been a timely turn-round. Eight months ago, brokers forecast that Time might be sold for $100m and that Fortune and Sports Illustrated might together reach a further $300m. This sale (like the whole Time Inc acquisition) is, therefore, likely to burnish Meredith’s reputation for smart deals. It will be interesting to see whether the Time magazine price proves to be the best of the pack – depending, presumably, on whether Meredith can snag another digital billionaire or two. The other former Time Inc magazines are expected to be sold by the end of 2018. The billion dollar question is whether – after Jeff Bezos (Washington Post), Alibaba’s Jack Ma (South China Morning Post), Laurene Powell Jobs (The Atlantic), and Marc Benioff – the likes of Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer or Larry Page will be seeking their legacies in legacy media. Motivational speaker Tony Robbins and Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert are said to be interested in buying Fortune, Money and/ or Sports Illustrated. (And, waiting in the wings for gilded buyers and/or investors is the Wasserstein-owned New York magazine.) Whatever Marc Benioff does with Time magazine, this latest addition to the list of tech billionaires (philanthropically?) investing in traditional media will not be the last. There will, surely, be many more “mediaires”. Nothing drives the sale of toys like fashion.
Broadcast-streaming. TV production group Endemol Shine is on the block. Rumoured bidders in what could be a $2.5bn auction include: the UK network ITV, Liberty-owned All3Media, Banjay (Vivendi) and – the hot tip – the Hollywood talent group Endeavour. Endemol Shine’s hit programmes include The Fall, MasterChef, and Peaky Blinders. The current owners, 21st Century Fox and private equity firm Apollo, are selling four years after forming it in a merger of Endemol (best known for Big Brother) and Shine, the producer of MasterChef founded by Elisabeth Murdoch. Endeavor’s bid is backed by Silver Lake and Softbank. Formerly known as William Morris Endeavor and representing Hollywood stars such as Charlize Theron and Ben Affleck, Endeavor has expanded rapidly in recent years. Co-chief executives Patrick Whitesell and Ari Emanuel (the “super agent” who inspired the lead character in TV show Entourage) have acquired the $2.2bn sports producer and agent IMG and the $4bn Ultimate Fighting Championship. Insiders suggest that the auction is nearing its climax and that the final bidders are likely to be ITV and Endeavour.
Broadcast-streaming. Haim Saban is buying camera equipment specialist Panavision and Sim Video International in a $622m cash and stock deal. The transaction is aimed at creating a comprehensive production and post-production entity serving the hot SVOD market. It will be named Panavision Holdings Inc. and is expected to continue to trade on Nasdaq. Saban will pay Panavision shareholders $368m in cash and 8.1m shares of Saban stock with another 6m shares vesting over time. Sim’s investors will receive $110m in cash and 3.1m shares. The $622m transaction reflects a multiple of approximately 5.9x fiscal year 2018 EBITDA. Haim Saban is the founder of Saban Entertainment, producer and distributor of children’s television programs in the US such as Power Rangers. He previously headed the German TV network ProSiebenSat1 and Univision Communications.
Australia’s newly-relaxed media ownership laws are likely to permit the country’s two largest magazine publishers to merge, even though Bauer Media Australia (formerly ACP Magazines) and Pacific Magazines (owned by Kerry Stokes’s TV-digital-print Seven West group) have a combined market share of more than 80%. That’s how far magazines have slipped down the media ladder even in a country which once had the largest pro rata circulations among English-speaking countries. Nobody in Australia, it seems, is now worried about a magazines monopoly. Cue Bauer and Pacific which are known to have held talks about a potential joint venture for ‘back end’ services including merchandising, subscriptions and procurement – broadly on the lines of that concluded a few years ago in the US between Hearst and Conde Nast. But Nine Entertainment Company’s recent audacious swoop on Fairfax Media – to create the country’s largest multi-media group (by far) – has prompted suggestions that the two magazine groups could now combine, presumably in a low-cash acquisition by Bauer. The CEO of Bauer in Australia and New Zealand (which publishes many of the country’s best-known magazines and digital services including Australian Women’s Weekly, Gourmet Traveller, Woman’s Day, and Cosmopolitan) is Paul Dykzeul. Like his predecessor, he was formerly also at Pacific Magazines (publisher of Marie Claire, Better Homes & Gardens, InStyle, and New Idea) so is in a perfect place to plan a ‘merger’. The Bauer Media Group, based in Hamburg, owns 600 magazine-centric brands and 50 radio and TV stations across 17 countries. After decades of being primarily a magazine publisher, the company has been slimming down recently and, instead, investing in radio especially in the UK and Europe, where it is now the largest operator. Bauer has broadcasting ambitions in Australia and Fairfax’s 54% share of the Macquarie radio group may be up for sale in 2019, after the Nine deal completes. But a big new Bauer investment would have to wait for some earnings stability in its Sydney-based group whose revenues are way off the forecasts when it bought the business in 2013. A deal with Pacific Magazines might just sort it.
Events. The A$4.2bn ‘merger’ of Australia’s Nine Entertainment and Fairfax Media to form the country’s largest media group – embracing everything from network TV, to streaming, digital classifieds, radio and news brands – is almost certain to get approval from the competition authorities in November. The recent change of Prime Minister from Malcolm Turnbull (who had explicitly supported the deal) to his same-party rival Scott Morrison has made the dealmakers nervous. But nobody expects Australia’s first mega-media deal to be blocked, not least because the industry’s other large players, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp and Kerry Stokes’ Seven West, have deals of their own to push through the newly relaxed media ownership laws. But many companies are picking through the detail to find Fairfax divisions that Nine may not want. The first of these may well be Fairfax Events which organises Sydney’s brilliant City2Surf race, the Night Noodle Markets, and the country’s open-air movies. First to show an interest in the $70m-revenue division – which is said to make EBITDA profit of some A$10m – was the three-year-old, Denver-based Motiv Sports. The call was unsolicited but unsurprising to Fairfax since it came courtesy of Sarah Pohlman who used to manage the business before joining Motiv, which organises Blackmore’s Sydney Running Festival. Motiv Sports self-describes as “an active lifestyle and entertainment company focused on delivering authentic and immersive live and digital experiences”. It currently operates some 40 running and multi-sport events in the US, Canada, Australia and the UK. The interesting thing is that such headlining events, which are growing everywhere on the back of encouragement by tourist, media and health -conscious governments, mostly operate well beyond the orbit of the exhibitions companies which have all the infrastructure, skills and connections needed for what might be neat diversification. Given the local estimate that the Fairfax Events business is being valued at only 6x EBITA (compared with at least double that for exhibitions), we know some people who should get with the program.
B2B information. The Wrap, the California-based movie and media super-blog, is acquiring a video subscription service which will get struggling digital media bosses everywhere thinking about the way to go. The Wrap News Inc announced an un-priced, all-share deal with the six-year-old Videolnk (yes, that’s the right spelling), the $30/month subscription source for business news about the digital video industry. The two will eventually be combined into a new subscription site called Wrap Pro. The Wrap was founded nine years ago by Sharon Waxman, the author and esteemed foreign correspondent (for the New York Times and Washington Post). It self-describes as “a multiplatform news and information network covering the entertainment and media industries, from an anchor of high level, original content, that leads to the engagement of a vibrant community of users – entertainment professionals and enthusiasts – around the globe.” With more than 19 regular contributors and with guest commentary from industry heavyweight “Hollybloggers”, The Wrap is great reading. The logic for adding a subscription business to the free site, which apparently attracts 10m visitors a month, is based on the familiar fear that the digital advertising business is going bad unless you are Facebook, Google and Amazon. Waxman says she’ll keep her main site free but will use Wrap Pro for “premium” content plus she is planning subscriber access to her growing slate (currently 75) of events including screenings, influencer events and conferences. The site earns revenue from advertising, sponsored content as well as the events. Most insiders believe that the slew of exclusive content would have long ago enabled it to convert some thousands of its readers into subscribers, even without Videolnk. “It’s our job to make what we’re offering really worthwhile, really valuable, and really produce a benefit to our members,” says Waxman who last year hit the headlines by disclosing that, in 2004, the New York Times spiked her expose of Harvey Weinstein’s history of sexual harassment. The Wrap strategy may soon come to resemble that of former Wall Street Journal tech reporter Jessica Lessin whose five-year-old The Information is now believed to have some 20k subscribers paying $500 a year. It also runs subscriber events and has many of the personal touches perfected by Sharon Waxman. There are not too many other similarities between the scoop-laden The Wrap and the two-stories-a-day jewels of The Information. But we bet that Waxman will also be able to show that – for all the doom and gloom of legacy news brands – readers will pay for insightful, well-targeted content they can’t find nowhere else. Just make sure it’s exclusive content, and do have the nerve to charge what it’s worth to readers who want it. That’s all.
Events. New York City-based private equity firm MidOcean Partners is acquiring, from Shamrock Capital, Questex, the Massachusetts-based B2B exhibition organiser in the travel, hospitality, pharma, healthcare, beauty and tech markets. Questex has over 125 tradeshows including the International Beauty Shows. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed, although the price is rumoured to be around $180m which is 1.8 x revenue. Questex employs over 350 people in offices throughout the US, Europe and AsiaPacific. The MidOcean deal features some interesting exhibitions-steeped personalities. The acquisition sees a change at the top where Questex’s founding CEO Kerry Gumas (ex of Advanstar, Reed Exhibitions and IDG) is handing over the reins to Paul Miller (long time at UBM) who has been with Informa since its $1.6bn acquisiti0n of US-based exhibitions and B2B group Penton. The man who helped to clinch that whopping price from the voracious Informa is David Kieselstein, former Penton CEO (and executive from D&B, Kantar TNS and Time Inc.) negotiated the deal for MidOcean and will now become chair of Questex. In these years of exhibitions consolidation, where will Kerry Gumas end up after the expiry of his Questex advisory contract?
Events. US exhibition organiser Emerald Expositions is acquiring Total Tech Summit from EH Media, as well as a group of complementary tech events, for US$28m. The Summit is a three-day event which this year takes place November 7-9 in Pittsburgh. Emerald claims to be the largest operator of business-to-business trade shows in the United States by net square feet. It currently operates more than 55 trade shows. In 2017, the company claims its events “connected over 500k global attendees and exhibitors and occupied over 6.9m net square feet of exhibition space”.
Events. Informa Plc has acquired a 20-year licence to operate the influential CMA Shipping Conference & Exposition on behalf of the Connecticut Maritime Association. The UK-based exhibitions market leader already has a substantial maritime information and events portfolio including Lloyd’s List, Lloyd’s Maritime Academy, and also the Seatrade cruise events acquired as part of this year’s ‘merger’ with UBM. CMA Shipping attracts over 2,000 maritime industry leaders, owners and ship managers each year.
Broadcast-streaming. The Comcast and 21st Century Fox (Disney) competition to acquire the European Sky TV (for a value last set at £26bn) will be decided by sealed bids in an auction administered by the UK Takeover Panel. September 22 is the last day either can change their bids. Hold your breath.
B2C digital. Cash hungry Opendoor, a four year-old, San Francisco-based company, has acquired Open Listings for an undisclosed sum. Opendoor closed on $325m in new funding in June in a round that brought its total equity funding to $645m to date — and its valuation to more than $2bn. The company has also raised $1.75bn in debt, and two sources tell us more funding from SoftBank is imminent. Open Listings is a four-year-old, LA-based startup that has aimed to make it easier and cheaper for buyers to purchase homes by automating much of what an agent would do, thus reducing the fee an agent would traditionally take. One of its stated goals has been to make home ownership more affordable for everyone by refunding 50% of their commission to the buyer at close.
Magazines. The German-owned Immediate Media, of the UK, has acquired the BBC Good Food brand including the magazine, digital and live events businesses, with which it has had an agency relationship since much of the company’s portfolio was originally spun-out of the BBC in 2011. Immediate claims the deal makes it the “largest food media publisher in the UK”, which sits well with its less trumpeted accolade of being the UK’s most profitable magazine publisher. BBC Good Food is the UK’s largest food website with 22m global monthly visitors, and the best-selling food magazine, with 1.3m monthly readers and an average print circulation of 160k. BBC Good Food brings with it strong but under-profitable events including the: BBC Good Food Show and regular roadshows with the UK’s top chefs, tastings, shopping and entertainment. These events are claimed to attract 300,000 visitors who reportedly spend £27m at the shows. The out-sourced organiser River Street Events (whose owner formerly managed the events at the BBC’s erstwhile events partner Haymarket Media) is bracing herself for a re-negotiation with (or job offer from) the new owner. BBC Good Food also has a popular Amazon Alexa recipe skill which will enhance Immediate’s opportunities in burgeoning audio media. It is believed that the BBC Good Food portfolio has total revenue of almost £25m – doubled in the past five years – with digital revenue now having overtaken print. Although financial terms have not been disclosed, it is believed the acquisition price was some £30m. It is believed that Immediate plans now to extend the brand’s live events and there is some talk that it will seek to buy the independently-owned and impressive (but only marginally profitable) Great British Chefs. This latest UK deal highlights the success of Hubert Burda Media, which acquired Immediate Media from Exponent private equity for £260m in 2017. In its last financial report, it said that the Immediate acquisition had almost doubled the Burda’s international business which accounted for €455m (18% of all Burda revenue) and made the UK its largest market outside Germany. Immediate publishes the broadcast listings weekly Radio Times, Cycling Plus, MountainBike UK, Triathlon, Cross Stitcher Gold, Olive, Lonely Planet Traveller, and BBC titles such as Top Gear, Gardeners’ World, and CBeebies. It also has a growing slate of live events. Immediate’s success in achieving best-in-class profit growth over the past five years has – whisper it softly – been largely achieved through steep cover price increases on the extraordinarily resilient Radio Times. But the company has also generally achieved above-average magazine copy sales and invested smartly in digital e-commerce platforms in the wedding, jewellery, and craft sectors, and in events. The under-stated CEO Tom Bureau has been a starring act in a pretty cloudy world. It’s not the kind of performance we have come to expect from the beleagured magazine market. But, then, that goes also for the German parent company. In 110 years, the family-owned Burda has grown into one of Europe’s largest and steadiest publishing groups. Its real rise to prominence began in 1949 with the launch of Burda Moden, now called Burda Style, a German magazine containing sewing patterns for housewives in post-War Germany. Burda now has one of the world’s largest databases of digital sewing patterns. Across more than 20 countries, the €2.7bn-revenue company publishes more than 300 magazines, including Focus, the German news weekly, celebrity magazine Bunte, and local editions of Elle, InStyle and Playboy. Hubert Burda ran the company himself for 30 years until 2010, when he handed over day-to-day control to former McKinsey consultant Paul-Bernhard Kallen. His company is, more than ever, the magazine publisher that is admired (and envied) by magazine people everywhere. Dead cool.
2013 Context: Is Immediate the digital model for magazines?
B2B information. UK-based information and events group Ascential has announced the acquisition of Brand View, a provider of price and promotion analytics to retailers and manufacturers, for up to £38m. The price includes conditional deferred consideration of up to £8.2m. Unaudited revenue for the year to June 2018 was £13m, and the transaction is expected to be immediately earnings accretive with Brand View expected to generate EBITDA profit margins of 20%. This relatively small deal continues Ascential’s track record of paying high prices: even if the 10-year-old Brand View was already making the targeted 20% margins, this acquisition multiple would be 15 x. In fact, the multiple of actual profit is believed to be 25x. But few B2B companies are as good at wringing the profits out as the £1.7bn Ascential. The company’s tech-savvy CEO Duncan Painter has been making very selective acquisitions in the UK and US and has already disclosed that Brand View will be integrated with Ascential’s OCR, Clavis and Planet Retail operations which will ensure some scale economies on a global basis. But this kind of price emphasises the importance of the listed company continuing to get the kind of organic growth that it has been able extract, for example, from its globalising Money 20/20 events. It’s flying high.
2017 context: Ascential, the new force in B2B media
Events. The UK listed exhibitions organiser ITE Group is disposing of no fewer than 56 of its smaller events in Russia, to Shtab-Expo LLC, a company owned by ITE’s former Russia chief. These events, which are said to comprise “a significant proportion” of ITE’s “non-core” events in Russia, last year generated profits of £1.3 on revenues of £12m. This ensures that the conditional disposal price of £8-13m (effectively as low as 5x earnings) will dilute the company’s profits, more so because payment is actually spread across eight years. The deferred payments (and the fact that the deal does not include all of ITE’s troublesome non-core Russian events) betray the enthusiasm to get rid. But the deal is also a sign that the profits of these small regional exhibitions are still in decline some years after they were first rocked by the perfect storm of sanctions on Russia, the conflict in Ukraine, and uncertainty in Turkey. This long tail of events has long been a burden for a company which has 16 major mostly Moscow-based events which will be retained. But ITE had been wary of the impact that a disposal would have on its trademark Russian events, including MosBuild, WorldFood Moscow, YugAgro and MITT. These events will now be operated by the newly-formed ITE Expo International LLC. The disposals follow those of Metaltech Malaysia and the closure of more than 30 unprofitable or marginal exhibitions. But nothing has so defined the two-year-old get-fit regime of CEO Mark Shashoua as this year’s £300m acquisition of seven UK exhibitions (including the legendary International Spring Fair) from his former employer Ascential Plc. That “insider” connection has encouraged some ITE investors who were momentarily spooked by the mere idea of buying a seemingly mature group of exhibitions from Ascential, an events company that has proved so adept at cutting costs and squeezing profit margins. With almost £80m of revenue in 2017, it is now believed that these events could triple ITE’s revenue to at least £230m with profit margins of more than 25%. Revenues from Russia are forecast to fall to some 25% of the ITE total, compared with more than double that just a few years ago. The UK will be bigger than Russia. If the company does achieve its targeted £5m of cost savings on the acquired exhibitions (and as long as any kind of Brexit-forced slowdown does not seriously erode the earnings of the UK retail-oriented shows), Shashoua will have delivered a whole lot more stability to a company once so sensitive to the volatility of Russia and other developing economies. If he soon manages to get some cash in return for the other non-core Russian shows, investors will be cheering even more. But, if there is another wobble in ITE earnings growth, there will be no shortage of exhibitions companies waiting to pounce on the 27-year-old £620m company. New global leader Informa and Blackstone-owned Clarion are watching. The smart money, though, is on ITE delivering – and then going on a spending spree of its own in 2019. After all, like-for-like revenue is more than 10% up so far this year. We’re backing you, Mark.
Context: Why Reed Exhibitions may be sold
Magazines. Future Publishing Australia, a division of the fast-growing Future Plc, of the UK, has bought the magazine-centric brands PC PowerPlay, Hyper and PC & Tech Authority from NextMedia for what is believed to be a price of less than A$500k. The 12-year-old NextMedia (which is managed by its founders, former ACP Magazines executives David Gardiner and Bruce Duncan) is now a Sydney-based subsidiary of the 30-year-old, privately-owned Forum Media Group (FMG), of Germany. FMG also has specialist and business media in Germany, North America and Asia. It has revenues of some €100m, and last year acquired 80% of the B2B media and events company Lighthouse in Singapore and Hong. It is a reasonable bet that Forum will become increasingly focused on B2B and will eventually sell NextMedia itself to the voracious Future, which has a range of complementary UK and US magazines. Just wait. Context: Future accelerates
Newspapers. Former US hedge fund manager Will Wyatt’s new Donerail Group is looking to acquire Tronc (the former Chicago Tribune Group). Donerail’s plan, after purchasing Tronc’s 10 daily newspapers, is believed to be to sell them off to individual buyers, some of whom are already believed to be lined up. Wyatt’s bid for Tronc is rumoured to be in the range of $640-700m. It is widely assumed that Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp has provisionally agreed to acquire the New York Daily News. Consolidation of some kind with his New York Post could produce some elusive profits.
Magazines. Peter Brant has bought back Interview magazine, after putting it into liquidation just over three months ago. A New York bankruptcy court approved Brant’s $1.5m offer. As he is the sole secured creditor, he is effectively buying the assets from himself – and essentially getting the magazine (launched almost 50 years ago by Andy Warhol) back for free. This move has enabled Brant to wipe out $3.3m in debts. Brant’s daughter Kelly Brant, who had been Interview’s president and responsible for its operations for the last several years, is believed to be planning to relaunch the title under most of the same leadership and a new holding company, Crystal Ball Media. The Business of Fashion says: “Over nearly 30 years as Interview’s owner, Peter Brant developed a reputation for not paying the bills. The independent magazine, known for pioneering the celebrity-on-celebrity interview format and documenting New York’s high and low culture, struggled financially in recent years. Media consumption shifted online and print advertising revenue declined. But Interview’s May 2018 bankruptcy filings reveal just how bad things had become. The magazine owed over $11m, had $17,000 in the bank and was valued at a mere $25,000. Former editorial director Fabien Baron alone was owed about half a million dollars in unpaid wages and expenses. Brant claimed to have loaned the business over $8m, guaranteed by Interview and its parent companies, since 2016. And both he and the magazine were facing multiple lawsuits alleging unpaid wages and wrongful terminations.” Oh well.
Music. Warner Music Group has now cashed in its entire 1.9% stake in Spotify for $504m. An estimated $126m of the consideration is set to be passed on to artists by way of a payment on account.
B2B information. Nielsen Holdings plc has acquired SuperData Research, a leading provider of market intelligence on digital games, gaming video content and virtual/augmented reality across mobile, PC online, console and other digital platforms. The company analyzes the spending of over 160m paying digital gamers, worldwide. Financial terms not disclosed.
Marketing. Bertelsmann hopes to complete a deal to sell its call-centre business this autumn, CEO Thomas Rabe said, as he overhauls the German publishing group in the face of disruption from big US internet platforms. Rabe put the €1bn-revenue Arvato CRM on the block in January and, announcing improved half-year revenues on Thursday, said he expected to finalise a deal with an outright buyer for the business in October. But Bertelsmann plans to retain the unit’s French operations.
B2B information. StormGeo, a world-leading provider of weather intelligence and decision support services is acquiring Nautisk, a leading global supplier of maritime charts and publications to the merchant marine from Norwegian media company NHST Media Group. Transaction terms not disclosed. The 20-year-old Norway-based StormGeo AS is one of the largest privately held weather service providers worldwide. It provides meteorological services, particularly to the energy, shipping and media industries.
Events. GS Media & Events, of Illinois, which owns and operates more than 25 recreation-focused consumer shows throughout the US, announced it has acquired the following eight consumer shows from RJ Promotions Inc: Des Moines Boat & Sport Show; Des Moines RV & Outdoor Show, Topeka Boat & Outdoor Show, Topeka RV & Sport Show, Overland Park & Outdoor Show, Colorado Springs RV & Outdoor Show, Colorado Spring RV & Travel Expo, and El Paso RV Show. Financial terms not disclosed. GS is a division of the private equity-owned Good Sam Enterprises and operates 23 recreation events in North America. It claims to be the premier publishing, online, and face-to-face marketing company serving the outdoors enthusiast.
Visual Communications. Mark Getty is taking back full control of the Seattle-based Getty Images Inc from private equity group Carlyle. They will acquire all of Carlyle’s equity in Getty Images for cash plus units that are said to provide the vendor with an ongoing financial interest in the company. Financial terms were not disclosed but it is rumoured that the deal values Getty Images at slightly below $3bn, including debt, which is less than the $3.3bn valuation Carlyle placed on the company when it acquired a majority stake six years ago. The reduced valuation reflects the challenges Getty has faced in competing in an increasingly digital media landscape. Founded in 1995 by Mark Getty and Jonathan Klein, Getty has had to adapt to a media shift from print to online, where prices for images are lower. The company’s CEO is Dawn Airey, a former UK TV executive who was CEO of Channel Five.
B2B information. The 12-year-old California-based AppFolio Inc, a US provider of cloud-based business software solutions for some 22,000 customers in the real estate and legal markets, has acquired the assets of WegoWise, of Boston, a provider of software for 450,000 property managers and owners of some 700,000 units, most of which are multi-family. AppFolio is listed on NASDAQ.
Magazines. Anthem Publishing, of Bath, UK, is in advanced negotiations to sell its music-making magazines to Singapore-based BandLab Technologies. The deal involves: MusicTech, MusicTech Focus, The Guitar Magazine, Guitar Classics and associated digital operations. Transaction terms were not disclosed. Anthem, which last month acquired Women’s Running magazine, was founded 15 years ago by ex Future Plc publishers Jon Bickley and Simon Lewis. It operates in the music, food and mindfulness sectors and has twice been honoured as UK Independent Publishing Company of the Year. BandLab operates a digital service used by millions of music makers and fans around the world to make, share and collaborate in music. It was founded by Meng Kuok, the son of a Singapore agribusiness entrepreneur who co-owns the world’s largest palm oil producer. In addition to online music sharing and video streaming, Meng Kuok owns a Singapore-based guitar retailer and a music merchandise company in San Francisco. The move into music-making magazines follows his 2016 acquisition of 49% of Rolling Stone magazine for a reported $40m. The deal gave BandLab direct responsibility for the magazine’s currently 12 licensed editions worldwide. But Kuok’s bid to acquire overall control of the magazine was frustrated by the sale of the remaining 51% to Penske Media, of the US, which reportedly includes some degree of continuing editorial control by the founding Wenner family. In Penske’s Variety magazine, Kuok professed to being happy to “share” Rolling Stone and about the brand’s growth prospects generally: “It’s not just a media brand. It’s much more than that. It references and reflects, and also influences and sets the tone for pop culture. That gives it tremendous opportunities. It’s not a one-dimensional brand. It also has a chance to be a global brand.” BandLab is thought likely to acquire other magazines and digital media in Europe, Asia and the US.
B2B information. The California-based Owler, which claims to be “the world’s largest community-based competitive insights platform and private company database” and which had already raised $19.3m, has secured (as yet undisclosed) further funding from Morningstar boss Joe Mansueto, and existing investors, Norwest Venture and Trinity Ventures. Owler, which was launched in 2011 as InfoArmy, began as a crowd-sourcing model where two-person home-working research teams would compile a report on each company for subscribers paying $99 a year. Two years later, it relaunched as Owler, with a completely different business model. It now offers a free mobile and online platform on company information for “members” who, having chosen to follow a set of companies, receive a personalised newsfeed and daily email. The Owler app covers trigger corporate events (i.e. funding events, leadership changes), company news and a community-driven Competitive Relationship Graph. It seeks to help business professionals uncover competitive stuff and discover new potential new rivals. The Owler “community” is said to comprise more than 1.5m members who both receive and share information on companies. Its leading competitors are reportedly InsideView (started 2005) and DataFox (2013), both of which have also been able to attract successive funding. But Owler seems more friendly and collaborative than these out-and-out subscription services. Owler’s ability to raise a total of, presumably, more than $20m in the past seven years, confirms the confidence that some smart investors have in a company which is said only to have revenue of some $3m. But its strategy is to engage free ‘subscribers’ with plenty of useful snippets and day-to-day information on the companies in which they are interested, in the hope of getting them to buy the high-value reports when the need arises. The company seems to be a natural extension of the highly-successful 20-year-old GLG (formerly Gerson Lehrman Group, which employs 1,700 people worldwide). GLG self-describes as “a learning membership connecting businesspeople trying to solve problems to experts that can solve them.” We guess that nobody jokes about what the word ‘owler’ meant in historic England. It was another word for ‘smuggler’.
Theatre. Advance Publications, parent of magazine publisher Condé Nast, has acquired Stage Entertainment, one of the world’s largest theatre producers and owners, operating 20 theatres with shows attended by over 7m visitors annually. It bought the company from CVC private equity. It entertains audiences in the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Russia, UK and US. Leading productions include Disney’s The Lion King and Aladdin, Mamma Mia!, Mary Poppins, Anastasia and Tina: the Tina Turner Musical. Stage Entertainment employs more than 3,000 people worldwide. Stage Entertainment closed its UK office in 2016 but continues to have productions in London. Transaction terms were not disclosed. Does this diversification increase or reduce the chances of a magazine-consolidating ‘merger’ between Conde Nast and Hearst Corp’s magazines division?
Magazines. Readly, the five-year-old Swedish-owned digital magazine app, has raised €10m in funding from new investor Swedbank Robur and existing funder Zouk Capital, of London. The Readly app for tablets and smartphones gives customers unlimited access (on up to four devices) to some 3,200 national and international magazines for a fixed monthly subscription of c£8. This year, Readly has added Switzerland to its ‘local’ markets of Sweden, UK, Germany and Austria. Readly is expected to have revenues in 2018 of £23m (some 75% up on the previous year and more than three times that of 2016). Revenue was split fairly evenly between Germany, Sweden and the UK with other countries accounting for less than 10%. The price appeal of Readly to consumers is clear enough, and the software is good, giving readers the magazine feel with easy zoom-in pages. Readly subscribers are thought to average something like 20 digital magazine sessions per month totalling about 7 hours’ reading time. Interesting from the viewpoint of publishers (some of which are still nervous about the possible Readly risk to full-price magazine subscriptions) is the finding that some 15% of reading takes place outside the native market of the magazine content. Readly likes to compare itself to Spotify but the really interesting time will be when/if readers are able to search for topics and content across large numbers of magazines rather than only within an individual brand. Publishers might worry about the potential erosion of magazine branding involved in that. But, with digital subscriptions one of the only growing sources of magazine revenue, the money will talk. It is also assumed that Readly could develop a range of services like its US counterpart Magzter which offers a “Lite” version for access to just five magazines. You could imagine subscriptions covering just the magazines of individual publishers or even groups of publishers. Or access just to magazines about, say, football or fashion. If Readly can keep up the growth rate, its business really will become mainstream for publishers rather than just useful ancillary revenue.
Events. With 130 employees based at its head office in London’s Shoreditch, FCBI operates B2B conferences and publications in pharmaceuticals, energy, transport and insurance. Some 65% of its £30m revenue is generated in the US, 20% in Continental Europe and 10% in the UK. The MBO led by the CEO Piers Latimer marks an exit for the company’s founders. Terms not disclosed. The FCBI £30m revenue was disclosed by the Lloyd’s Bank private equity arm LDC but contrasts with 2016 losses of £600k in the UK statutory accounts, along with the closure of 130 events across the previous two years. Former Informa and EMAP B2B chief executive David Gilbertson is set to become chair of FCBI. It will need to build-out further with acquisitions and/or launches especially in the UK, so this will be a company to watch.
Broadcast-streaming. US TV group Comcast has extended the deadline for Sky TV shareholders until 12 September but is still expected to win the fight with Disney for the £26bn pan-European TV network. For Rupert Murdoch, who brilliantly built what is Europe’s most successful pay TV business over the past 27 years, it is the end of an era in more ways than one. His family have pocketed some $11bn for selling their 17% in 21st Century Fox to Disney, plus they have kept the hugely-profitable Fox News and Fox Sports, and their News Corp controls Foxtel Aussie pay TV, Harper Collins book publishers, the Wall Street Journal, daily newspapers in the UK, Australia and the US, and the ‘worth-more-than-the-whole-company’ digital real estate services REA and Move. So what will Rupert and his sons Lachlan and James do with their winnings? Well, the acquisition by the rival Australian Nine Network of the country’s Fairfax newspapers seems likely to lead News Corp in Sydney to some kind of merger or collaboration with its other competitor, the Seven Network. Seven, controlled by Kerry Stokes, also owns newspapers and Pacific Magazines (which is thought likely to be sold soon to Bauer Media Australia which owns the former ACP Magazines). Last week, the Seven Network’s CEO touted the idea of a collaboration so the heavily-indebted commercial TV network is not exactly playing hard to get. The other little post-deal challenge for Murdoch in the US involves the 22 Fox regional sports networks that Disney must now sell as a condition of buying most of 21st Century Fox. The price could be at least $15bn and other likely bidders are said to include Liberty Media, Amazon and YouTube. The reason why Murdoch did not manage to negotiate keeping the regional sports channels, alongside Fox Sports, in the first place was that Disney (the majority owner of leading US sports network ESPN) had wanted to keep them. But it has been forced now to divest. En passant, we should assume that one post-Sky strategy for Rupert Murdoch will be a global roll-out of Fox News. But Sky News + Comcast’s NBC might become an even stronger competitor.
B2B information. FarmWizard, the Belfast-based provider of agricultural software has been acquired by AgriWebb, of Sydney, as part of a wider £8m (A$14m) deal, which includes a seven-figure investment from new minority shareholder the UK-based Wheatsheaf Group which has owned a majority in FarmWizard since 2015. It is believed Wheatsheaf will now own almost 30% of AgriWebb, the privately-owned farm management software company which was founded in 2014 by a fascinating US-Australian trio: US-born, sometime school teacher and software entrepreneur Kevin Baum, former barrister John Fargher, and Justin Webb, an ex hedge fund owner (and international rowing champion). Webb and Fargher are from farming families and it was their data-primitive use of record-filled notebooks that had inspired the launch of AgriWebb. It is a cloud-based software-as-a-service livestock management platform designed to “digitise the notebooks that sat in the top pockets of Australian farmers”. The potential was quickly recognised by investors, helping to raise A$500k in 2015 and a further A$3m in 2016. The company also received a A$600k grant from the Australian government. Webb says: “Our early investors had all come to the fundamental realisation that agricultural production must meet the shift in demand. With farming land under competitive demand, the onus falls on increases in productivity through the conduit of technology to solve the shortcoming of a potential global food crisis.” Four years ago, the company began with a handful of farmers using an iPad-only app. AgriWebb is now Australia’s market leader in livestock software, with customers and enterprise clients across Australia and the UK, South Africa and Brazil. Globally, it is now used on 2,700 farms (1,700 of which are in Australia). The acquisition of FarmWizard came about as a result of Wheatsheaf’s approach to AgriWebb whose founders said the deal would “transform the future of digital agriculture”. FarmWizard’s dairy focus and individual animal management functionality is said to complement AgriWebb’s focus on pasture-based livestock management systems prevalent in Australia. The only slightly discordant note of the deal for a brilliant Aussie company is that there is, confusingly, the “Agri-web” company, based in FarmWizard’s Northern Ireland, which supplies “rubber grading screens” to the worldwide agricultural market. The six-year-old Wheatsheaf Group is part of the Grosvenor group belonging to one of the UK’s largest landowners, the gilded Duke of Westminster. Wheatsheaf is a leading global investor in, and developer of innovative food and agtech businesses “to help meet the food requirements…of a changing global population”.
Events. The largest US-owned exhibitions organiser, Emerald Expositions has acquired a group of tech shows from EH Media for $28m. The events include: Total Tech Summit; CEPro; Commercial Integrator; Security Sales & Integration and Campus Safety. The deal serves to focus attention on Emerald whose ancestry includes VNU, Bill Communications, Miller Freeman US,Nielsen, Onex and George Little. The $1.2bn quoted company, which has more than 55 trade shows (32 of which it describes as “large”), has been highly acquisitive but its shares have crashed 26% in the past year and are now some 5% below the 2017 IPO price. With attractive EBITDA profit margins of 45%, the problem is sluggish revenue growth. Blackstone, which bought the UK-based Clarion Events for £600m this time last year, is looking to build a world leader in exhibitions. It would love to get its hands on Reed Exhibitions when (if) it is put up for sale by RELX, the UK-based information parent. But, if Emerald’s shares continue to under-perform, the US group could become an easier target. A Clarion-Emerald ‘merger’ would become one of the the world’s five largest exhibition organisers with strong and growing positions in the US, UK and Asia. It would actually be the third largest independent organiser after Informa and Reed. Blackstone must surely be doing the sums.
B2B information. Washington-based FiscalNote has completed its acquisition of CQ Roll Call from The Economist Group for $180m through a combination of cash and equity. The Economist Group gets an 18% share in FiscalNote. As part of the transaction, S&P Global also takes a strategic equity investment. FiscalNote Founder and chairman/CEO Tim Hwang remains the largest individual shareholder in the company which, he says, “began out of our desire to answer a fairly simple question: why isn’t there a way to keep track of what’s happening in government — at every level — in a simple, comprehensive, and reliable way?” That explains the five-year-old company’s success but what remains a mystery is why The Economist wanted to sell its long-term media asset CQ Roll – and partly for a minority shareholding in a newish, albeit high-rated, company.
News. Local news web site OKCTalk.com has acquired Tierra Media Group, the parent company of Oklahoma Gazette. The weekly newspaper’s founder and publisher for 40 years, Bill Bleakley, is passing control to Peter J. Brzycki, owner of OKCTalk. Under what the two owners described as “a merger”, the two news brands will be owned by a newly-formed company OKC Next Media. An Oklahoma native, Brzycki began his career in real estate and management consultancy in California. This newspaper-web merger seems to be a good idea for quite a few much larger news properties round the world, doesn’t it?
Magazines. Former casino owner Bill Paulos announced has bought GamingToday, the 40-year old Las Vegas sports and gaming tabloid weekly, as more American states legalize gambling. Paulos, who owns Engaged Nation, an online gaming system, did not disclose how much he paid for the weekly paper and website or how many unique viewers it has. GamingToday, founded in 1976 by Chuck and Eileen Di Rocco, is famous for its 39-year-old “Bookie’s Battle” contest which determines which is the best forecaster over the course of the year. Paulos was the co-founder and owner of Cannery Casino Resorts which he sold to Boyd Gaming Corp for $230m in 2016.
Broadcast-streaming. Gray Television has agreed to sell nine stations in eight markets to three different buyers, clearing the way for the FCC to approve its $3.6bn merger with Raycom Media. Last week, it said it had agreed to sell its CBS affiliate WSWG Albany, Georgia, to Marquee Broadcasting. The combined purchase price for all the divestitures is $235.5m, apparently more than Gray had expected. The lastest deals are: Lockwood has agreed to purchase Fox affiliates WTNZ in the Knoxville, Tenn., market (DMA 61), WFXG in Augusta, Ga. (DMA 112), WPGX in Panama City, Fla., (DMA 151) and WDFX in the Dothan, Ala. market (DMA 173); E.W. Scripps has agreed to purchase ABC affiliates KXXV-KRHD in the Waco, Texas, market (DMA 86) and WTXL in Tallahassee, Fla. (DMA 108); Tegna is buying CBS affiliate WTOL Toledo, Ohio (DMA 78), and NBC affiliate KWES Odessa-Midland, Texas (DMA 144). Gray did not break out the prices of the four deals. But, in separate announcements, Scripps said it was $55m for the Waco and Tallahassee stations and Tegna said it was paying $105m for those in Toledo and Odessa-Midland.
B2B information. SAI Global, the provider of “integrated risk management solutions” which was founded 96 years ago to write the standards and technical documents involved in the construction of Sydney’s iconic Harbour Bridge, has acquired Strategic BCP ResilienceONE. Transaction terms not disclosed.
Magazines. New York magazine and websites including The Cut (fashion) and Vulture (culture) is the latest magazine-media group to be put up for sale, although the owning Wasserstein family has cryptically said it “would be happy to continue owning” the business. But CEO Pam Wasserstein’s comments have managed to confuse whether she was thinking of expanding through acquisition, divesting or bringing in a new investor: “Partnering to support acquisitions or other ways of growing might make sense. Or it might not.” The 50-year-old New York magazine was bought by Bruce Wasserstein for $55m in 2004 and has been controlled through a family trust since his sudden death in 2009 at age 61.For the past decade, his family have proved to be devoted and patient owners, and their investment in digital media seems to be paying off (sort of). About 35m people visited its sites in June — double the traffic of the year before. The fortnightly magazine sells an average of 400k copies. “Bid ’em up Bruce” Wasserstein made his name with complex (and hostile) deals successively at First Boston Corp, Wasserstein Perella, and Lazard. His surviving private equity firm continues to be a substantial media investor, including the acquisitive Northstar Travel Group (acquired in 2016) and ALM Media (2014). We should expect the New York Times, Hearst Corp and maybe even Penske Media to be keen to explore some kind of investment in, or acquisition of, the influential New York magazine. Time was when Conde Nast would have been in the running but not now. Perhaps other trophy buyers could include Michael Bloomberg or even Jeff Bezos.
Consumer and B2B media companies everywhere are getting into live events as a way of leveraging their audiences and advertisers and capitalising on what has, so far, been undisrupted growth. New Media Investment Group (NMI), one of the largest US local publishers, has acquired the four-year-old Rugged Events Holding for $10.4m. It owns the Rugged Maniac Obstacle Race series and more than 90 endurance events across North America. The company will become part of New Media’s events company, GateHouse Live which already has revenue of $20m and now hosts over 460 events with 650,000 annual attendees. NMI publishes 145 daily publications in the US reaching over 23m people on a weekly basis.
Former investment banker Yusuke Umeda, whose Uzabase company last month completed the $75m-110m purchase of business news site Quartz, from the former owner of The Atlantic, David Bradley, is seeking other acquisitions to help his NewsPicks app become global. While it has some tough competitors including Bloomberg and Axel Springer’s newly-profitable Business Insider, its US partnership with News Corp’s Wall Street Journal points to a strategy of alliances to expand its subscription service. Its ambition is to have 1m paid subscribers globally by 2023, compared with the 72k subscribers who currently pay $15 per month in Japan. In the US, where NewsPicks has been available for eight months, it has 175k users and hopes to convert these to paying some $15 per month. While Uzabase may still be working out how best to collaborate with Quartz, it is already said to be looking for its next deal, in Europe. Could be a good collaboration for the UK’s Daily Telegraph which has strong financial content.
Summit Media, the Birmingham, Alabama-based company formed in 2013 to purchase mid-market radio stations divested by Cox Radio, is now acquiring E.W. Scripps’s final group of 19 radio stations for $47m. In 2017, the revenue of all Scripps’ radio stations was $83.5m (profit: $11.6m) before it announced plans to concentrate on TV and digital news. Scripps has already announced the sale of five radio stations in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to Griffin Communications; two Milwaukee radio stations to Good Karma Brands; and eight stations in Boise, Idaho, and Tucson, Arizona, to Lotus Communications Corp. The Scripps stations will join the Summit portfolio of 31 radio stations in Alabama, Hawaii, Kentucky, South Carolina and Virginia.
Bauer Media Group UK is acquiring the 28-year-old Jazz FM radio network which has an audience of some 670k weekly listeners. Although the station has a loyal following, it has seldom been profitable. Its last revenue was £1.37m, resulting in a trading loss of £433k. It is believed that Bauer has acquired Jazz FM (which had borrowings of £500k) for less than £1m in total.
In 2016, Bauer Radio (which claims an audience of some 25m UK consumers through its heat, KISS, Grazia, Empire, Magic and Absolute Radio brands) made pre-tax profits of £30m – more than twice the profit of the company’s once dominant magazines group. Bauer’s growing UK radio interests (acquired as part of its £1bn EMAP consumer media deal in 2007) have led to acquisitions in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, and to speculation that it was seeking a radio deal in Australia.
Canadian wireless cable, internet and media group Rogers Media (which two months ago laid-off 75 full-time staff members from its eight magazines including the 113-year old 200k-circulation current affairs brand Maclean’s, the 250k-circulation best-selling women’s magazine Chatelaine, Today’s Parent, and Hello! Canada) is now planning to get out of magazines altogether. It is assumed that a buyer will be found for the magazines (acquired through the 1994 acquisition of the Maclean Hunter media group) which together employ some 150 people but it is believed the company will otherwise close them. In June this year, the $14bn-revenue Toronto-based Rogers Media said: “We have to reinvent the publishing business for the digital age. We haven’t done enough to do that. We’re going to take our best crack at it.” Well, that didn’t take long.
Events “experience” organiser PSAV, which cancelled IPO plans in 2016, completed its sale to Blackstone, this week, for a price believed to be some $400m. PSAV is an Illinois-based, company with a strong presence in the US, Mexico, Caribbean, Europe and the Middle East. It says: “audiovisual support is no longer simply a microphone and a flipchart. It now includes computer interfaces, high-definition imaging, rigging, power distribution, component video, special effects, concert sound and lighting, internet connectivity, virtual meetings plus all the traditional basic equipment.” The PSAV offerings were neatly summarised by Skift as: “Microphones audience members toss to each other like a ball. Colourful LED wristbands that light up for attendee surveys. Interactive video walls that help conference-goers choose which session or workshop they most want to attend.” The 81-year-old PSAV is believed to have revenues of some $1.5bn. But event production is manpower and resource-intensive so the company has not always been profitable. Blackstone’s interests in events includes Clarion, the expansive UK-US exhibitions group.
B2B information. The London-based Mark Allen Group (MAG) is buying Rhinegold, the long-time publisher of Music Teacher, Classical Music and Opera Now magazines, and the Music & Drama Education Expo. The price is believed to be less than £500k. The privately-owned Rhinegold is believed to employ some 20 people and has revenues of under £2m (some 60% from advertising). Its owner Derek Smith was a former Hong Kong-based executive of The Economist. In the pre-internet 1980s, he was also a founding director of Dan Wagner’s painfully pioneering MAID online companies database which, after its reverse takeover of Dialog Corp and the 2000 stock-market crash, was dubbed “Dial-a-dog”. Smith has had altogether more fun managing the Rhinegold portfolio of magazines and events, which he acquired in 2007, 30 years after its founding launch of Classical Music. Rhinegold will now join MAG’s music portfolio which includes the venerable 95-year-old Gramophone and also Jazzwise and Songlines. MAG chairman and founder Mark Allen had a nice line in flattery, saying he had been stalking Rhinegold for years. In fact, he has been far too busy acquiring a widening range of under-nourished B2B and special interest magazines from UK companies large and small. Deal after deal has funnelled into a vibrant group now with revenues of £45m. It’s all a long way from the former daily newspaper journalist who joined Reed Business Information to launch Community Care for Britain’s social services in the money-spinning 1970s, when UK weeklies were stuffed with job ads. Subsequently, after a muddy spell at International Thomson, Allen left with the medical magazines he had been managing for the fickle B2B publisher. That was the 1985 start of MAG. As a try-everything learn-as-you-go entrepreneur, Allen’s early experience in running conferences alongside B2B magazines prepared him well for a time when events are so often the main earner. The company’s growth has reflected the founder’s enthusiasms for content-rich professional media, the social-health-education sectors – and music. MAG now has more than 70 brands and organises over 200 events in diverse markets. Its strongest brands include: Print Week, British Journal of Nursing, Eureka!, Optician – and the 43-year-old Community Care acquired in 2017 (“A dream come true”). There’s distinctiveness in the relentless rise of Mark Allen beyond his insistence that digital and print can both ‘work’ in B2B. The company, almost 40% of whose revenue comes from advertising (just ahead of exhibitions), exudes an energy and optimism that’s difficult to find in a world of ravaged multi-market B2B groups. Many of MAG’s 350 people (30% do content) are based in a 150-year-old converted church in a south London suburb, and the company makes 18% EBITDA margins on revenue that has multiplied five times in the past 10 years. That decade of rapid growth builds the promise for what might come next for the privately-owned MAG in a UK market where there are plenty more under-loved media brands and companies. Mark Allen (whose son Ben has been CEO for the past six years) is as noisily impatient as ever. In his statutory accounts for 2016-17 – a year of five acquisitions – the chairman criticised his company’s first decrease in EBITDA for six years, despite a 17% rise in revenues. It stormed back the following year. Turn up the music.
Magazines. After losing $120m in 2017, the not-so-glossy Condé Nast is putting three of its loss-making magazines up for sale. Sale (or closure) of the US edition of Brides, Golf Digest and W will help to reduce costs by sub-letting six floors (or about one-third) of its 1m sq ft flagship headquarters at New York’s World Trade Centre four years after it moved there. Showcase magazines like Vogue, Vanity Fair and the New Yorker, which have been spread across entire floors, are being told they will have to join the real world and squeeze up a bit. But this cost-cutting is unlikely to be sufficient to save the Newhouse family-owned magazine company. There may be more portfolio rationalisation to come. Speculation has surrounded the future of Condé Nast‘s legendary artistic director Anna Wintour but this has been batted away by CEO Bob Sauerberg who himself risks being the one in the firing line. But the smart money is still on some kind of merger or (much) closer alliance with Hearst, with which it already has some JVs. Hearst-Condé could be a perfect fit in the UK, US and across their global licensed editions. But the tribal stuff might be tricky. Fresh from putting the cat among the pigeons by picking digital whizz Troy Young to succeed David Carey (ex Condé Nast) as Hearst Magazines’ new boss, it could be another bold strategy for Hearst Corp CEO Steve Swartz. Go on.
Events. It is a long year since Blackstone private equity acquired Clarion Events for £600m, almost three times its previous sale price in 2015. The surprise might have been that the company, which had been owned by a succession of private equity firms in the 14 years since it was spun-out of London’s Earls Court & Olympia exhibition venues, could still such price gains. But it reflects a heady combination of executive chairman Simon Kimble’s estimable long-term management, some deals, and the steadily rising values of exhibitions in a world where almost every other media category has been blown apart. In the year when Clarion has been voted as the UK’s “Most Influential” exhibitions company in the past quarter-century (wonder what the 2-3 larger companies think about that), it has started to become a truly global operator with the acquisition of Urban Expositions and Penwell in the US and Global Sources in Hong Kong. In 2016, Clarion was an 80% UK business; it’s now well below 50%. It operates more than 200 events in 50 countries and has revenues of more than £200m. So, rumours that Blackstone (which a few years ago wanted to buy what has become Ascential, operator of Cannes Lions et al) has approached RELX about buying Reed Exhibitions may be just that. But the price tag for the former long-term exhibitions leader (until Informa swallowed UBM this year) could reach 15-20 x EBITDA, and the parent company knows that a global auction could work great in what is a pretty soggy year for its core information businesses. A RELX investor presentation in London last week artfully kept the Informa and UBM exhibitions market shares separate so Reed could still claim leadership for the last time. But nobody is fooled. If you think this has been a big year for exhibition deals, just wait for a doozy in 2019.
Music. BMG Production Music has acquired independent UK company Deep East Music and historic French production music label Tele Music. Deep East Music was started in London in 2007 by entrepreneurs Ciaran McNeaney and Alex Marchant. It incorporates the labels DEM, Zest and Scorched Score as well as representing Q-Factory in the UK. Tele Music was founded in 1966 by Roger Tokarz. The company enjoyed early success when Pierre Bachelet composed the theme music for a TV ad for a French brand of tights. They went on to create custom music for hundreds of radio and TV productions in France, including the French version of Big Brother, Loft Story, which first broadcast in the early 2000s. The company also owns a raft of 1960s and 1970s recordings. Terms of the transactions not disclosed.
Music. Stingray Digital Group, the Montreal-based provider of digital music services for TV, mobile, gaming, retail, etc has made a $120m unsolicited offer for Music Choice, the 27-year-old NYC-based network of 50 genre-based pay-TV channels for music (i.e. all those music channels you forget are in your cable package but have been part of the padding for years). Music Choice is a partnership co-owned by Comcast, Charter, Cox, Sony, AT&T’s WarnerMedia, EMI, Arris, and Microsoft. Stingray produces audio TV channels, premium TV channels, karaoke products, digital signage, in-store music and music apps, and claims to reach 400m consumers in 156 countries.
Broadcast-streaming. The $3bn-revenue AMC Networks, of New Yorks, has agreed to purchase Robert L. Johnson’s over-the-top video company, under which it will pay $65m in cash for shares it didn’t already own. RLJ operates two internet video subscription services: Acorn TV, which features British television and film content, and UMC (Urban Movie Channel). AMC’s agreement to acquire RLJ for $6.25 per share announced this week is a 47% premium over its $4.25 per share offer in February. The total enterprise deal of the value is approximately $274m.
Broadcast-streaming. Nexstar Broadcasting has definitive deals to acquire, for $19.45m KRBK-TV, a Fox affiliate serving Springfield, Montana, and WHDF-TV, the CW affiliate serving Huntsville, Alabama.
Broadcast-streaming. Australia’s Nine Entertainment (the pioneering TV business which made Kerry Packer and vice versa) has announced a takeover of the battered 177-year-old Fairfax newspaper business in a surprise, agreed deal worth an estimated A$4bn. The deal sees Channel Nine’s publicly-listed owner with 51.1% of the new business and Fairfax taking the rest. The merger will create one of the country’s largest integrated media players, head-to-head with News Corp Australia which (unlike elsewhere in the world) retained all Murdoch media interests after the 2013 Fox de-merger. The combined entity will take the name of Nine Entertainment Co and – in addition to the Fairfax newspapers including the Sydney Morning Herald, Australian Financial Review, and The Age – will own 54% of the substantial Macquarie radio group, 100% of the Stan domestic streaming service (with a claimed 750k subscribers), and a 60% share in the separately-listed Domain digital classifieds. But some observers (including the vested interests of News Corp’s outspoken newspaper commentators) still expect a rival bidder to a deal which has been undermined by a post-announcement weakening in the Nine share price, which shaved A$300m of the A$2.2bn valuation of Fairfax. Will Amazon’s Jeff Bezos pitch in for the Fairfax news brands? What about other well-heeled business leaders in a country where successful people traditionally find it hard to keep away from media ownership? Other speculation includes the possibility of the sell-on of Fairfax’s regional newspapers, and also that there will be other mergers including even (too far, surely?) of News Corp and Seven West (owner of Channel 7 TV, Pacific Magazines and newspapers). There has also been speculation that the Aussie magazines market-leader Bauer (German owner of the former ACP, once itself owned by Nine) will bid again for Pacific Magazines. What would be a merger of the two magazine leaders might now be waived through by regulators who have got a lot more to worry about than a so-what monopoly of weekly women’s magazines. Bauer will also be keeping an eye open for any fall-out that might create the chance of entry into the radio market in Australia, to match its so-profitable group in the UK and Scandinavia. Meanwhile, the Australian competitions authority ACCC has said there will be “a long review” of Nine-Fairfax, so there’s plenty of time yet for things to change. But it does look as though the “merger” will happen early in 2019. It will, surely, not be the year’s only major media deal in Australia.What will Rupert Murdoch do with Mickey Mouse’s cash?
B2B information. London-based B2B minnow Vitesse Media plc is growing up fast. It has agreed to acquire the New York-based weekly magazine Investment News (153k readers) and associated events and digital services from family-owned Crain Communications (publisher of AdAge and Automotive News). The price is $27.1m (1.6 x revenue), $16m of which will be paid in cash, $5m in shares and $6m in deferred payments over the next three years. The deal is being funded by a share placing on London’s AIM secondary stock-market by Vitesse which will change its name to Bonhill Group Plc. The 21-year-old Investment News has a 42-member team (committed to remaining intact) and serves US financial advisers. Last year, it had revenues of $16.8m (2016: $17.2m) and was loss-making, although the sale announcement quoted “profits” before central overheads. Vitesse operates websites including SmallBusiness, Growth Company Investor, Information Age, GrowthBusiness, and What Investment? It also has events including: The Quoted Company Awards, The Global Women in IT Awards series and the British Small Business Awards. It has had a patchy recent history with successive changes of management and shareholders, and a last-reported revenue of under £3m. So the US deal is a big move in every sense. Perhaps some shareholders would have preferred a transformational deal in the UK to strengthen the core business rather than leaping across the Atlantic and taking on currency risks. They might also rather have splashed out on a brand that is safely profitable and not quite so print-centric. But CEO Simon Stilwell (former boss of the UK boutique investment bank Liberum) is confident: “Since I joined Vitesse last year, we have overhauled the board and management team as well as the strategy and this is the first major step in executing on our growth plan.” Let’s watch.
Broadcast-streaming. Following Comcast’s withdrawal, both sets of shareholders approved Disney’s $71.3bn offer for Fox’s asset sale. Now, Comcast is expected to get the European Sky TV network (39% owned by Fox) in what just might, in the end, have been a cosy stitch-up. But what will the Murdoch family do next with News Corp, the Fox News and Fox Sports operations they retain, and anything else?
Magazines. Penske Media Corporation has made an undisclosed strategic investment in BuzzAngle Music. Founded in 2013, and launched in 2016 by Border City Media founder Jim Lidestri, BuzzAngle provides a music analytics service that incorporates daily sales, streaming and airplay activity of albums, songs and artists for deeper analysis of music consumption and related trends. Penske Media plans to leverage some of its key brands, including Rolling Stone, Variety, Deadline and IndieWire, to expand exposure of the BuzzAngle charts and compete directly against Billboard.
Exhibitions. Scottish event organiser QD Events has acquired the independently-owned Scottish Fitness and Nutrition Expo, which has experienced significant growth since it was founded in 2014. The £4m-revenue QD Events, which acquired 25% of SFN Expo in 2016, bought the remaining 75% after the show’s record attendance last year. Further details were not disclosed.
Exhibitions. UBM (which recently became part of Informa, now the world’s largest exhibition organiser) has acquired ITE’s 75% stake in Malaysia-based ECMI ITE Asia for £2.8m. ECMI runs the Cosmobeauté series of beauty trade exhibitions in Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam, and the biennial series of Scientific Instrument and Laboratory Equipment trade exhibitions in Malaysia and Indonesia.
Music. French media conglomerate Vivendi says it will seek one or more “strategic buyers” for up to 50% of its world-leading Universal Music Group. Vivendi has ruled out a long-discussed IPO of UMG, whose revenues for first-half 2018 were €2.6bn – up 6.8%. Last year, Goldman Sachs valued it at $23.5bn (tripled in four years), ahead of the $20.1bn Sony Music. UMG (which has had eight of the top 10 albums of 2018) has been bolstering Vivendi’s profits in recent years: it was almost 70% of profit in first-half 2018. While the announcement seems to imply that Vivendi wants to raise some cash from Universal while retaining control, it may be hoping to flush out a full bid, without having to go to the time and trouble of an IPO. Whatever the Vivendi ambition, this week’s news is only the start of a process that might run for 12-18 months.
B2B information. The £1.5bn Euromoney Institutional Investor Plc has acquired Random Lengths, a price reporting agency for global wood products industry, $18.2m (a multiple of 16.5x). The deal complements Euromoney’s acquisition last year of RISI pricing and intelligence for pulp, packaging and wood products. Euromoney is a publicly-listed B2B company whose portfolio includes: Euromoney, Institutional Investor, BCA Research and Metal Bulletin as well as events for the telecoms, financial and commodities markets. It was founded in 1969 by the Daily Mail group which, in 2016, sold-down its shareholding from 67% to 49% and relinquished its board places, effectively freeing Euromoney to develop independently for the first time. Until then, it had been assumed that one of the Daily Mail options had been to integrate Euromoney as the core of the B2B operations which already account for most of its profit. Now that Euromoney is “free” from its parent, the assumption must be that CEO Andrew Rashbass (ex The Economist and Reuters) will want to expand more quickly. Having quietly trimmed the portfolio and cut costs, will he buy one or more of the woefully under-loved, UK-listed B2B companies: Wilmington (£160m market cap), Centaur Media (£70m), or Ebiquity (£30m)? Some good strategies there.
Broadcast-streaming. Viacom is acquiring AwesomenessTV, reportedly for just $25M (and some debt) from NBCUniversal, Verizon, and Hearst. Verizon bought its stake 2 years ago at a $650M valuation. Two years before that, Hearst paid $81.25m for a 25% stake which gave the company a valuation of $325m. That was nearly triple what DreamWorks had paid for the teen-oriented YouTube multi-channel network the previous year. Viacom is acquiring the youth-media company from NBCUniversal (51% stake), Verizon, and Hearst (24.5% each) for a knock-down price which, to say the least, signals a softer market for (at least some) online media companies. AwesomenessTV (ATV) has a distribution footprint that spans free and subscription VoD platforms. It reaches a claimed 158m unique users with some 300m monthly views. It has production studio with a library of more than 200 hours of long-form TV series and feature films. It will now be integrated into Viacom Digital Studios and gives the opportunity to link with Nickelodeon and MTV. The price of the Viacom deal – and the fact that NBCUniversal, Verizon and Hearst have wanted to sell – underlines the challenge of monetising video streaming especially for the prized “Generation Z” YouTube demographic. If you’re looking for clues, the deal follows this month’s shutdown of Verizon’s go90 streaming service on which Verizon had been working with ATV to develop short-form programming. Some sources said “the joint ownership structure of the company was not working because of conflicting priorities”. Hearst – whose major earners across the past 30 years have shifted sequentially from newspapers to magazines to TV to B2B data – is now making profits of more than $1.1bn and certainly gets many of its investments right, especially when it teams up with savvy partners. Look how well it has paid off for Hearst to be partnering Disney in ESPN, A+E, History Channel et al. It has similar high hopes for its collaboration with Verizon which includes the Complex Networks’ stable of brands which together generate over 500m videos views a month.” Well, AwesomenessTV has been a tiny bump in the long road to dominate post-TV millennial audiences. The investment that has been talked up until quite recently by Hearst executives has proved to be something other than, well, awesome.
Magazines. Detroit-based Tech and sports entrepreneur Dan Gilbert and motivational speaker Tony Robbins are together said to be favourites to buy Sports Illustrated from Meredith Corp for a price believed to be c$120m. Gilbert is the founder of Quicken Loans and Rock Ventures, and owns the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball club. Private equity firms are said to dominate the bidding for Time and Fortune magazines. Jay Penske is said to have withdrawn from the bidding. The sales of the legendary former Time Inc magazine brands are expected to be complete by the end of August, although the Sports Illustrated deal may be announced next week.
Broadcast-streaming. Paris-based film distribution company Wild Bunch Group has sealed a €110.7m financial restructuring plan with its creditors, including Sapinda , which is owned by Wild Bunch’s largest German shareholder, Lars Windhorst. Under the deal, Sapinda will increase its share of Wild Bunch to 76%. At this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Wild Bunch won the Palme d’Or for Hirokazu Kore-eda’s “Shoplifters,” as well as an honorary Palme d’Or for Jean-Luc Godard’s “The Image Book,” the Jury Prize for Nadine Labaki’s “Capernaum,” and the Directors’ Fortnight’s Art Cinema award for Gaspar Noe’s “Climax.” But the company has been struggling financially for months.
Broadcast-streaming. In Philadelphia, Entercom, the second largest radio group in the US, has acquired pop station More FM from Jerry Lee Radio for $57.5m, and also sold country station 92.5 XTU to Beasley Broadcast Group for $38m. Entercom bought CBS Radio last year.
Broadcast-streaming. Cox Media Group announced that it is “evaluating” its ownership of 14 TV stations in the US, which is expected to lead either to a new outside investor or to an outright sale. around the country, saying the move will likely result in the company losing full control over the stations. Cox’s announcement cams as its larger competitor, Sinclair, has sought to win regulatory approval for its proposed $3.9bn merger with Tribune Media. Cox Media Group, a subsidiary of Cox Enterprises, was formed in 2009 by combining Cox Radio, Cox Television, Cox Newspapers, CoxReps and various digital businesses into a single integrated broadcasting, publishing and digital media company.
Broadcast-streaming. Providence Equity Partners is rumoured to be preparing to IPO German home-shopping TV network HSE24 public in 2019 after plans to sell the business fell through. The value is expected to be at least $1.75bn. Founded in 1995, HSE24 (which operates in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy and Russia) has revenue of some €754m and competes with companies such as Liberty Media’s QVC which is seen as an unlikely buyer. But German broadcaster ProSieben is said to be interested. Providence bought its 85% stake in HSE24 for €650m in 2012.
Broadcast-streaming. The Essential Media Group is the newly-formed international content company formed by the merger of Essential Media and Entertainment and Quail Entertainment, under the ownership of US-based Kew Media. Headed by CEO Chris Hilton and CCO and Executive Producer Greg Quail, EMG has production offices in Sydney, Los Angeles and Dallas Fort Worth. Terms not disclosed.
Broadcast-streaming. While US media companies are lining up to bid for the platforms and production portfolios that will help compete with the runaway Netflix, Sony is looking to sell-out of its Crackle free, ads-supported streaming network which it acquired for $65m in 2006 when the platform was known as Grouper. There’s plenty of hype about the claimed potential of Crackle, the 100m downloads of its app and its audience in 20 countries. But anything that Sony can’t make work in streaming seems unlikely to be a must-have for rival media groups does it?
Broadcast-streaming. Scandinavia’s largest telecom company, the Sweden-based Telia has acquired Bonnier Broadcasting in a deal said to be worth at least $1bn, with a further $100m payable on future performance. Telia also announced its acquisition of TDC’s Norwegian business in a $2.6bn deal. Bonnier Broadcasting, which includes brands such as Swedish TV4 and streaming service C More and Finnish MTV, is thought to account for some 30% of the revenue of the $4bn-revenue, privately-owned Bonnier Media Group which also publishes newspapers, magazines, books, B2B information and digital media. The 214-year-old, seventh generation family company operates in 12 countries outside Scandinavia including the US, UK, Germany and across Eastern Europe.
B2B information The thirty-year-old, privately owned shipping events, publishing and online group Mercator Media has acquired the maritime conference organiser The Coastlink Network. Terms were not disclosed. The UK-based Mercator, which has revenue of some £8m, has established maritime media brands including: The Motorship, World Fishing, Port Strategy, Boating Business and Maritime Journal.
FiscalNote, a rapidly-growing five-year-old Washington DC company that uses technology to analyse global legislation, is acquiring the political journalism media CQ Roll Call from The Economist in return for an 18% share in FiscalNote. The deal comes after a period of rapid growth for FiscalNote whose prominent investors include: Mark Cuban, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, Jerry Yang, and Steve Case. The Economist Group bought Congressional Quarterly (CQ) in 2009, reportedly for $100m, and merged it with RollCall which it had acquired 16 years before. CQ, which was launched in 1945, provides congressional news and legislative tracking tools through more than 40 print and online products. Roll Call, which was founded in 1955, covers breaking congressional news. Washington Post commented: “For CQ Roll Call, the deal offers a degree of financial stability by aligning it with a subscription-based data business similar to Bloomberg News’s terminal, as well as a set of data capabilities that could help it against rivals like Politico Pro.” The Economist Group had record 2017 revenue of £367m and operating profit of £47m (13%), with its research arm The Economist Intelligence Unit performing strongly. The global weekly magazine’s print and online paid circulation was up to 1.2m, and advertising decline slowed to just 2%. The Economist was formerly 50% owned by Pearson Plc, which sold its shareholding after selling the Financial Times to Nikkei in 2016. The company is now 42.5% owned by Exor (an Agnelli family company), but its independence is guaranteed by a shareholding trust controlled by employees.
B2B information. UK-based B2B information and training group Wilmington plc has sold ICP, its specialist leading credit reporting company, to its management team, led by managing director Jennifer Guy. The £3m transaction price will be paid in instalments over the next five years. Since 1983, ICP has provided research in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and South America, from offices in London and Dubai. Wilmington itself operates across risk-compliance, healthcare and finance-law. Some 57% of its revenues are in the UK, 19% in the US and 15% in Continental Europe. The one-time trade magazine and directories business was a 1990s buyout from the wreckage of the late Robert Maxwell’s bankrupt media group. Its share price abruptly lost 25% two weeks ago after a warning that underlying profit for the year ended 30 June had fallen by 3%. With 2019 now expected to be a year of further fall-back instead of previously forecast growth, the £170m company (which recently spent millions on a move to new London offices) looks distinctly sub-scale and vulnerable. After a few years of quietly shedding advertising-based operations, reducing its dependance on legal training and some neat internationalising acquisitions, Wilmington is feeling unloved by the London stockmarket which worries that Brexit might make things even worse, especially for its sagging healthcare division. Private equity rumours of a 2019 MBO for Wilmington Plc are getting louder. But the revitalised £1.4bn Euromoney Institutional Investor Plc might also be doing the sums.
Magazine-media. The fast-growing UK-based specialist media company Future plc is paying $132.5m to acquire the B2C business of Purch, a US digital publisher in technology and science, with brands including Tom’s Guide, Tom’s Hardware, Top Ten Reviews, and Live Science. Purch, which made 2017 Ebitda profit of $10.1m on $46m revenue, has developed content-based affiliate e-commerce similar to Future’s. It has also built advertising technology to generate best prices in real-time through trading exchanges, which the UK company will now roll-out across its whole UK-US-Australia portfolio. Future was founded 33 years ago in picture-postcard Bath by TED Talks pioneer Chris Anderson. Its 19 years as a UK public company have never been dull. It soared to a £1bn valuation in 2000, 12 months after IPO, before crashing to earth. It recovered in the early years of the century but then suffered from print disruption, M&A that didn’t quite deliver, global over-reach, and high overheads. The company’s chequered history, though, was rooted in its long-time dependence on the once-booming newsstand sales of premium-priced print magazines with cover-mounted discs and computer games. Ouch. The company has always had technology smarts (its 10-year-old TechRadar has some 30m monthly uniques) but it has taken current CEO Zillah Byng-Thorne (ex AutoTrader) to do the deals and pick the people that have shifted the centre of gravity from print towards e-commerce and events. Her painstaking four-year strategy demonstrates that media transformation often depends on buying enough building blocks to change the operational balance of a legacy business. Future’s deal-making has enabled it to squeeze the profits out of a still large print portfolio while acquiring and developing new skills, technologies and services without the risk of suffocation by the old guard. The company has also pushed its print-centric content strongly towards the reviews, lists and buyers’ guides which attract online audiences and propel e-commerce. But shareholders (some of whom date back to Future’s life-support rights issue in 2001) can still get jittery. Despite a share price which has soared 60% in the past year, it has fallen back 12% in the last few days. US acquisitions can do that for British companies, and the Purch deal is also being cautiously funded by a deeply-discounted rights issue. Although two-thirds of Future’s £15m profit currently comes from its home market, this latest acquisition should swing the balance sharply to the US – where the majority of the UK company’s online audience (and 200 of its staff) are already based. Specialist consumer media and the £250m Future Plc – one of its liveliest stars – are looking good.
Magazine-media. The £160m-revenue UK-based Dennis Publishing, owner of The Week, a slew of motoring, computer and tech magazines, and Buy-a-Car e-commerce is set to be acquired by private equity firm Exponent for a price of some £170m, 1 x revenue. Not really a low price but many observers reckon that The Week itself may be worth more than half of the sum being paid, and all kinds of non-media types may value Buy-a-Car at £75m+. The attractions of Dennis at a time of magazine-market weakness include: its strong subscriptions revenue (by contrast with most newsstand-dependant UK mags),the fast-growing e-commerce, the US (and global) growth potential for The Week and current 10-15% profit margins. On the downside are a weakening print portfolio (4-5 magazines may soon be closed), decline in UK sales of The Week (due, perhaps, to pre-sale marketing cutbacks), and low profit margins in e-commerce. Exponent will fancy its chances of turning those negatives round and getting strong growth from the company built over 40 years by the late Felix Dennis whose amazing Heart of England Forest charity is selling the company. Exponent has previously scored with media buy-outs for educational company TSL (now owned by TPG), BBC Magazines (now Immediate Media, owned by Burda), database firm Gorkana and coupon brand Wowcher! (ex Daily Mail). Exponent, which expects to complete the acquisition-MBO during August, won the auction by out-bidding DMGT, Burda, and private equity firms Inflexion and HIG. The estimable Dennis CEO James Tye and his sprightly team will count themselves lucky not to have been swallowed up by an existing management, even before cashed-up executives from TES and Immediate give a good rap to the nice guys at Exponent. Felix Dennis was always one to watch. Now, his legacy company is a must-see.
Events. ITE Group plc has completed its previously announced acquisition of Ascential Events Limited (The International Spring Fair etc) from Ascential plc for a total of £300m. It will help to re-balance a company that has traditionally been weighted towards the Russian market where it has long been the largest exhibition organiser. The decline of that market (due to the global banking crisis and also trade sanctions) has weighed on ITE. But its astonishingly steady 30% profit margins and a long tail of small exhibitions tell the story of a company which now needs catch-up investment in acquisitions and neglected core shows, while divesting a fair chunk of its 270+ exhibitions. This is the year of deals in global exhibitions. Everyone is waiting for the next moves from Blackstone (Penwell and Clarion), Reed Exhibitions, and Informa, the new market leader (now digesting UBM). Ex UBM management fall-out might even spawn some new organising companies. Meanwhile, will ITE be the diner or dinner?
Books. Investment firm KKR has agreed to acquire RBmedia – the world’s largest producer of audiobooks and spoken content – from Shamrock Capital. Terms not disclosed. RBmedia has existed only since 2017 but its predecessor Recorded Books (formerly owned by Wasserstein) dates back 40 years. The company whose other content brands include Tantor Media, W.F.Howes and High Bridge, claims 35,000 exclusive titles and its own technology platform. KKR, which estimates the audiobook market will be worth $900m this year (up 20%), says: “Audiobooks create incremental time for enjoying great books, and one thing we lack today is time. We think this type of content will continue to take up more mind-share, especially among younger consumers.” So says Richard Sartnoff, the KKR adviser who was formerly chair of Bertlesman, 75% owner of Penguin Random House. Another reason why this deal is eye-catching.
B2B information. The Idaho-based Truckstop, one of two leading US freight matching and load board solutions, has acquired transport software company Grizella. Terms not disclosed. Truckstop. com was founded in 1995, when IT specialist Scott Moscrip began offering a better way for truck drivers to find loads than by posting signs on the side of their trucks or gathering around local bulletin boards. The still privately-owned company, which was the first of its kind in the US, now describes itself as a collector and provider of big data.
News. Media holding company Africa. com has announced its acquisition of Primedia and MTN-owned news portal, iAfrica. com. The terms of the agreement were not disclosed. Africa. com is a digital media company aggregating, producing, and distributing business, political, cultural, lifestyle and travel news related to the continent. It describes its Top 10 as “the smart choice for busy people who don’t have time to filter through all of the headlines searching for the latest news on Africa… the trustworthy curated news source that makes staying up-to-date quick, easy and interesting.”
Events. DVV Media Group has acquired the London-based events and digital media business Smart Rail World Ltd whose international events include: Smart Rail, Smart Transit, Smart Metro, Safe Rail and the Transport Security Congress. DVV is a 71-year-old Hamburg-based privately-owned provider of business information for the international transport and logistics industries. It employs 300 people, mainly in Germany. Its UK business had revenue of some £2m in 2016. Its UK brands include Railway Gazette International, Motor Transport and Commercial Motor, all once owned by Reed Business Information.
News. Ringier Sportal SRL has struck a deal with Intact Media Group to acquire its Romanian sports magazine Gazeta Sporturilor, including the publication’s print edition and website GSP which is the leading online sports portal in Romania with more than 3.5m monthly uniques. The print edition of Gazeta has a daily circulation of 20k copies. Ringier Sportal is a joint venture between Ringier Romania and Bulgaria’s Sportal Media Group and believes the transaction will make Ringier Romania the country’s digital media leader. Ringier is the Swiss privately-owned media group whose CHF1bn revenue (c£750m) is 35% digital.
B2B information. Equifax Inc has acquired DataX, Ltd, a leading specialty finance credit reporting agency and alternative data provider to lenders in the UK. Through DataX, Equifax will help lenders expand credit access and broaden financial inclusion for more consumers, specifically in underbanked populations. Transaction terms not disclosed.
The run-off between two bidders for Dennis, UK-based publisher of The Week, Viz, AutoExpress, Cyclist, Money Week, Computer Active, EVO, and the Buy-a-Car e-commerce platform is expected to be between two private equity companies. A late bid from the Daily Mail group only for The Week is believed to have prompted Livingstone, handling the sale, to explore whether it could increase the total proceeds by accepting complementary bids from two publishers (the Daily Mail for The Week in the UK and US, and Burda for the rest). But it is now believed that private equity firms will offer more, perhaps up to £150m, for the whole company. Insiders also believe that a private equity deal would be most likely to involve the current Dennis management in a buy-out whereas a “trade” buyer is more likely to integrate the Dennis media into its existing management structure – and scrap some jobs. It is also thought likely that the trustees of the late Felix Dennis’s Heart of England Forest charity, who are selling the company, would want to retain some level of shareholding so they could benefit from future success. The sale is expected to be agreed by the end of July.
B2B information. Law Business Research Ltd (owned by Levine Leichtman Capital Partners) has partnered with management to acquire the UK-based Globe Business Media Group, a provider of business intelligence on international law and IP. Globe’s flagship platform, Lexology targets in-house lawyers. The 22-year-old LBR claims over 2,500 institutional clients from more than 100 countries. In 2016, it had revenues/profit of £18m/£5.6m.
Advertising. Martin Sorrell’s post-WPP fightback vehicle S4 Capital has acquired the Netherlands-based global digital agency MediaMonks. It revenues of c€110m and operates through 11 offices in 10 countries. The combined group has over 750 people and clients including Adidas, Amazon, GE, Google, Hyundai, JAB, Johnson & Johnson, Netflix, 3G and Weber. At 15x prospective earnings, this is a rich cash-shares price, presumably made more digestible by that fact that Sorrell beat WPP in the auction. What’s next in Sorrell’s campaign to build a post-digital, different kind of marketing services group?
B2B information. FPE Capital has apparently bought control of the UK-based IWSR global drinks database for £7m (€8.1m). The full deal has not been disclosed but the ISWR, as recently as 2016, might have made profits of £2.7m (according to filings for its parent company). So nothing is too clear. The 40-year-old IWSR (formerly the International Wine & Spirits Record) gathers data on drinks brand performance in 157 countries. Its founders, the Smith family, will remain minority shareholders with Alastair Smith staying as a director. Neil Smith, former COO of B2B group Wilmington plc, becomes chair of IWSR under its new ownership. Mark Meek, who took up the role of CEO four years ago, formerly held the same position at Mike Danson’s Datamonitor (sold for a hangover-inducing £513m to Informa in 2007) and parent company Progressive Digital Media. Very data-rich.
Broadcast-streaming. 21st Century Fox’s most recent offer of £14 per share, valuing the pan-European Sky TV at £24.5bn (a significant improvement on its initial bid in 2016 of £10.75, and 12% ahead of Comcast’s previous bid of £12.50) has just been topped by Comcast further increasing its bid to £14.75 per share. Fox already owns 39% of Sky and all eyes are now on their response to Comcast. Comcast and Disney are both bidding also for 21st Century Fox itself. It remains at least possible that Disney will win the battle for Fox but that Comcast will get Sky – or at least the 61% not owned by Fox. That would be a bitter-sweet outcome for the cashed-up Murdoch family who have long wanted to acquire 100% of Sky.
Music. Hipgnosis Songs Fund Limited, the new investment vehicle of former Elton John and Guns N’ Roses manager Merck Mercuriadis, successfully floated on the London Stock Exchange this week, raising £200M to buy up music copyrights. It immediately announced its $23m (£18m) acquisition of a 75% stake in the catalogue of American singer-songwriter, record producer and rapper Terius Youngdell Nash (better known by his stage name “The-Dream“).
Magazines. The UK-based specialist magazine publisher Anthem has acquired Women’s Running from Wild Bunch Media. Terms not disclosed. The fast-growing Anthem, which was founded 15 years ago by ex Future publishers Jon Bickley and Simon Lewis publishes magazines and websites in the music, food and mindfulness sectors. It has twice been awarded as Independent Publishing Company of the Year in the UK.
News. America’s leading Spanish-language broadcaster Univision Communications wants to sell the Chicago-based satirical media The Onion as its private-equity owners grope for an exit. It has hired Morgan Stanley. It is also seeking to sell Gizmodo Media Group, just two years after buying all of the online media publications. After a rapid acquisition of English-speaking online properties in 2016, Univision is reversing its strategy by selling Gizmodo (formerly Gawker Media) and The Onion. Univision acquired Gawker by outbidding Ziff Davis with $135m offer. Days later, it shut down in the wake of a $115m libel action. Univision is also looking to sell its Fusion Media Group (also launched in its madcap go-English year of 2016). FMG is the company’s multi-platform, English language division dedicated to serving “young, diverse America”. Oh dear.
Broadcast-streaming. Paris-based Molotov, which offers 34 channels of free live streams, is looking for an acquiror. It has raised $34m from Sky and others since its launch in 2015. Molotov was founded by serial media entrepreneurs Jean David Blanc, Pierre Lescure and Jean Marc Denoual. There is rumoured to be interest from French telecom giant Orange. Molotov.tv claims it has 2m regular viewers, of which 500k use the platform “almost daily”. Some 4.1m registered users are said to have used the service at least five times. A strong cocktail.
Broadcast-streaming. The US’s largest radio broadcaster iHeartMedia (849 stations across the country, outdoor advertising and music streaming) is undergoing bankruptcy proceedings. This has prompted both Silver Lake Partners and John Mallone’s Liberty Media separately to run the rule over it as a potential acquisition. The former Clear Channel Communications (whose troubles stem from a leveraged buy-out in 2008) is expected to emerge from bankruptcy in early October, with debt reduced from $20bn to $10bn. It is likely then to seek a buyer. Last month, Liberty Media withdrew its proposal to buy 40% of iHeart for $1.16bn, which, when factoring in the $10bn of remaining debt, would value iHeart at $12.9bn. But creditors believe the company is worth $12-15bn. Easy to sense the deal and to predict that Liberty will do it.
Broadcast-streaming. Europe’s leading independent TV production house Endemol-Shine is jointly owned by Fox and Apollo Global Management. It has reportedly received bids from ITV, FreemantleMedia, Lionsgate and Sony Pictures Entertainment. In the era of streaming, TV production is hot.When will the UK’s leading commercial network ITV give its shareholders a payday by floating off its own production group?
Events. Monomax, the privately-owned publisher of London’s Square Mile restaurant guides, has sold its Venues & Events Live exhibition to Ocean Media Group. The Billingsgate, London exhibition, which attracts some 7,000 event bookers annually, was launched in 2005. The sale follows Monomax’s 2016 disposal of its Imbibe Live drinks trade exhibition to Reed. The £8m-revenue Ocean Media is a private equity-owned B2B exhibition organiser and magazine publisher in the wedding, parenting, social housing and stationery sectors.
News. Media startup Uzabase is acquiring Quartz, the six-year-old New York-based digital business news platform, from David Bradley’s Atlantic Media. The deal is valued at $75-110m, depending on Quartz’s financial performance over the next 2-3 years, and is expected to complete this month. Tokyo-based Uzabase, which was founded by two investment bankers 10 years ago, publishes NewsPicks (subscription-based business news) and SPEEDA (financial information and corporate intelligence).Under the deal, Quartz will now manage the English-language version of NewsPicks which entered the US market last year as a joint venture with Dow Jones. NewsPicks has 3.3m registered users in Japan, with 64,000 paying $15 per month. Quartz relies mainly on branded content for revenue. Now, though, it plans to replicate the NewsPicks’ subscription strategy. The ultra-smart Quartz describes itself as “a native news outlet for business people in the new global economy”, 70% of whom are said to access it via mobile devices and some 40% from outside the US. It claims a global audience of more than 100m people, including 22m monthly web site visitors, 85m video views on facebook and Twitter, and some 700k subscribers to its newsletters including the highly-rated Daily Brief. Quartz is believed to have annual revenues of some $40m and profits of $3m. It employs 215 people including 100 journalists across the world, including recruits from the Wall Street Journal and The Economist. Alongside, Business Insider (now said to be newly-profitable under Axel Springer’s ownership), Quartz has long looked like nothing less than the future of digital news, with its emphasis on high-quality journalism and exclusive content. Owner Bradley had a background in consulting before becoming a publisher in 1997. He acquired his flagship The Atlantic magazine two years later. He is an expansive media boss who has invested in journalism – both in print and digital. His team were rocked by the declaration that he will be divesting all his media activities before he is 70 – in 2023. Last year, he sold a majority share in The Atlantic to philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs’ Emerson Collective (which has also discussed investing in BuzzFeed News). He still owns National Journal, DefenceOne, and Government Executive.
Advertising. The fur is flying at WPP where the world’s largest marketing services group is competing with its founder and former CEO Sir Martin Sorrell in an apparent €300m (£265m) bidding war for MediaMonks, the Dutch-owned digital production company. Sorrell’s S4 Capital wants to make MediaMonks its first acquisition. The 17-year-old Hilversum-based company employs some 600 people, principally in the UK, US and Brazil and is described as a prolific creator of digital work for major brands including Audi, KFC, Uber, Lego and Mercedes. The agency describes its productions as being “crafted with care, coded by coffee, celebrated by champagne”. But WPP has cranked up the pressure by threatening that Sorrell will lose his £20m WPP deferred bonus if he doesn’t back off. Its letter from solicitor Slaughter & May claims he is “likely to be in breach of his confidentiality obligations” which implies that MediaMonks was a documented target of WPP from Sorrell’s days. Sounds pretty soggy, and most insiders believe it is nearly a done deal for Sorrell. Meanwhile, he has sought shareholder approval to raise S4 Capital’s acquisition funding to £1bn. We still think Ebiquity, the UK-based and thinly-global data group, is also in his sights. Or should be.
B2B information. Incisive Media’s chairman and principal shareholder Tim Weller is the B2B veteran whose back story includes a sizzling London IPO in 2000 and – seven years later – the painful $630m acquisition of American Lawyer. Now, he’s back on the acquisition trail after a long absence, with the purchase of Open Door Media Publishing (Investment Europe and International Investment). It is believed, however, to be a nominal price. ODMP was founded in 2013 by Nick Rapley and Louise Hanna through an MBO from – Incisive Media, under its previous private equity ownership. Incisive’s portfolio includes Investment Week, Post, Computing, The Inquirer, Risk. net, Central Banking Journal and FX Week. Incisive Media celebrated its slimmed-down ‘independence’ in 2017. More deals expected.
News. Sanoma increased its shareholding in the traditional Finnish news agency from approximately 33 to 75% by acquiring the shares of Alma Media, the publisher of Iltalehti and Kauppalehti, and TS-Yhtymä, the publisher of Turun Sanomat. The price was not disclosed.
B2B information. The Chicago-based EnsembleIQ (backed by private equity firm RFE Investment) which was formed in early 2016 out of the mergers of Edgell Communications, Stagnito Business Information, and the Path to Purchase Institute and, subsequently, B2B brands from Rogers Media, has acquired Lebhar-Friedman. The 93-year-old, family-owned publisher’s portfolio includes the controlled circulation free magazines Drug Store News, Convenience Store Age, and Hardware + Building Supply Dealer, as well as the SPECS Show, a 55-year-old annual brick-and-mortar retail conference, which has an annual attendance of 1,000. Terms were not disclosed.
Broadcast-streaming. London-listed £1bn-revenue Entertainment One (Peppa Pig and PJ Masks) has acquired the remaining stake in feature film production and sales company Sierra Pictures. eOne has distributed such films as “Spotlight”, “Arrival” and the “Divergent” series, as well as television shows including “Designated Survivor” and “The Walking Dead.” Sierra has backed the likes of “Tully,” “American Animals,” and the upcoming adaptation of James Frey’s “A Million Little Pieces.” eOne originally invested in Sierra/Affinity in 2015.
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