Advance Publications’ M&A man Andrew Siegel has made his first big hire, signaling the company is going to get more serious about acquisitions in the months ahead.
Siegel was hired from Yahoo  a year and a half ago to be Advance’s first-ever svp of strategy and corporate development. It was a big departure for a company whose business is steeped in traditional print media like its glossy Condé Nast magazines and cable TV but which is trying to diversify its revenue . His position is unusual in that he has no operating role but reports directly to the Newhouse family that runs the company, leaving some at 4 Times Square wondering what exactly he’s up to.
His first senior hire, Muriel Malka, who was named head of M&A, has a background in both media and deal-making, having served in strategy and development and M&A roles at NBCUniversal and Merrill Lynch.
“It signals that we’re continuing to be active in investing in companies that are participating in the change that media is undergoing and acquiring tuck-ins for operating businesses and new standalone businesses,” Siegel said of Malka’s hire.
Siegel has spent only 15 percent of the $500 million war chest he started with, money that came from Advance’s sale of stock in Discovery Holdings. The deals so far signal Advance is looking to learn more about changing shopping habits, e-commerce, new forms of advertising and online business models.
So far, Siegel has directed small investments in such startups like Visible Measures, an online ad platform; and fashion e-tailer Moda Operandi.
He was also involved in the purchase of ZipList , an online recipe box that fit with Epicurious; and Reddit Gifts , an online gift exchange that became part of social news site Reddit. The biggest deal so far he was involved in was the purchase by Fairchild Fashion Media of Fashion Networks International , a blog network best known for NowManifest.
While Siegel has stayed under the radar, he emphasized that the deals he’s directing aren’t funds being spent in a vacuum. Advance plans to host a portfolio day in the fourth quarter, a chance for its legacy businesses and portfolio companies to learn about each other. There was a similar event some months ago where Condé Nast’s magazines got to meet with a variety of (non-portfolio) online fashion startups.
“You can be assured that we’re benefiting from the companies we invest in,” Siegel said.