Media Fortune Fame & Folly

Mark Allen buys Farmers Weekly

Mark Allen Group (MAG), the UK’s fastest growing B2B publisher, is acquiring the 85-year-old Farmers Weekly from Reed Business Information (RBI) for £12.6m in cash. The deal is expected to complete during January.

The B2B brand is believed to have revenues of some £13m, a paid circulation of 42k, and a staff of 54. The portfolio includes the B2B magazine’s online trading platforms and a growing slate of events including the Farmers Weekly Awards, the Young Farmers Festival, and Future Farm Technology.

The magazine which, less than 40 years ago, operated no fewer than six of its own farms (yes), has been published as part of RBI’s ProAgrica group which claims to be “a global provider of independent connectivity and data-driven support solutions for agriculture”. RBI will retain its global data business. The Farmers Weekly divestment follows that of Boerderij, its Dutch equivalent, in 2018.

Rumours of the impending deal followed MAG’s registration last month of a new subsidiary, MA Agriculture Ltd., which will be responsible for publishing Farmers Weekly from offices in a building shared with RBI in Sutton, Surrey.

In the year to 31 March 2018, MAG had revenue of £51.3m (up from £43.3m the previous year), and EBITDA of £8.5m (£7.2m). It is believed that some 40% of MAG’s revenue is derived from events including 12 exhibitions. It publishes more than 100 magazines and has some 200 conferences and awards events.

At a conference of the UK Professional Publishers’ Association last month, chairman and founder Mark Allen said acquisitions had been key to the growth of the 35-year-old MAG.

The company has made no fewer than 24 acquisitions during the past 10 years at a cost of some £33m. These include RBI’s Community Care which Mark Allen had launched as an editor in 1974. The deals have so far contributed a total of some £53m of profit, with an average payback of three years. Some are believed to have had a payback of just 12 months. Former daily newspaper journalist Allen has earned his place in the big league of UK-based publishers.

Meanwhile, this is almost the end of B2B magazine publishing by RBI which has been successfully transformed into a global data-tech group over the last 10 years. But not quite. The RELX subsidiary still publishes the 161-year-old Estates Gazette (bought for £59m in 1990) as part of its property information portfolio, which is why that magazine is said not to be for sale. Don’t bet on it.