Buyers of The Nielsen Co.’s media and entertainment brands said they plan to invest heavily in the print brands and introduce paid content to their Web sites, a sign of their belief in the value of targeted, high-quality brands despite the negativity surrounding print media.
The newly formed company, e5 Global Media LLC, announced earlier today it has agreed to purchase eight brands belonging to Nielsen Business Media. Pluribus Capital Management and Guggenheim Partners formed e5 jointly.
The brands being acquired are AdweekMedia (which includes Adweek, Mediaweek and Brandweek), The Hollywood Reporter, Billboard, Backstage, The Clio Awards and Film Journal International. E5 Global Media will also acquire the Film Expo business, which includes ShoWest, ShowEast, Cinema Expo International and CineAsia trade shows. The parties declined to identify a purchase price, which other media reports have put at $70 million.
“We decided this was a great time to buy media assets,” said Jimmy Finkelstein, chairman e5 Global Media. “We’re going to create great businesses in print, online, on mobile, [and] in events, and we think it’s the right time to do it.”
Pluribus Capital Management is led by Finkelstein, ex-Hearst International president and CEO George Green and Matthew Doull, who will all be putting their own money into the company. The deal is expected to close Dec. 31, 2009. The new company expects to name a new CEO by February.
Gerry Byrne, now senior vp of Media & Entertainment at Nielsen Business Media (which housed the brands that have been sold), will become a consultant to the new company beginning Jan. 1, the buyers said.
The partners are buying at a time when media deal-making activity and values paid for media properties are at their lowest levels in years.
“The problem isn’t media per se,” said Doull, a former associate publisher of Wired magazine who has spent the past few years in the hedge fund world. “The problem is, what they’re doing is becoming commoditized on the Web. As long as we’re producing high-value, business-critical information, we’ve got a real future.”
Finkelstein said that in addition to adding significant editorial resources to each of the brands across print, Web and mobile platforms, the new company would add paid content portions to each brand’s Web site.
Nielsen announced separately it will cease publishing Editor & Publisher and Kirkus Reviews. In a statement it said it plans to continue operating its trade show group and affiliated brands, but will “continue to assess the strategic fit of other publications.”
Asked whether he considered buying those brands, Finkelstein said “We never looked at them.”
“These were the brands we were interested in buying,” he said of the eight that are part of the deal. “These were the brands that made sense.”
The deal was brokered by John Wickersham of merchant bank Quayle Munro, who was a past president and CEO of the Business Media Group of Nielsen predecessor VNU. Boston law firm Choate Hall & Stewart advised Pluribus in the transaction.