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Innovators: executive

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Hanley Wood's owner, a private equity fund operated by merchant media bank Veronis Suhler Stevenson, placed the construction industry media company on the block earlier this year. The ultimate price may be in the neighborhood of $700 million, a tribute to the much-admired company built by CEO Mike Wood.

Over the years, Hanley Wood has established a formidable presence in five business segments: publishing, Internet, events, marketing and information. The company has quietly implemented a number of innovations on Wood's watch, which began in 1976 when he and Mike Hanley founded the business. Hanley retired in 1999 when VSS bought the company.

Wood has been a leader in leveraging private equity backing to build Hanley Wood into a prototypical modern b-to-b media company. "The people I've worked with in private equity are smarter, sharper, think faster, make decisions more promptly and know how to improve value," said Wood, who believes the potential to earn big money has attracted publishing talent to the private equity sector.

Hanley Wood has put its private equity backing to use in developing all five segments of its business. The Web, in particular, has been a key growth area. Wood said Hanley Wood tried to capitalize on the Internet's potential in two key ways: by investing in new dot-com businesses circa 1999 and by starting its own project called ebuild, which is an aggregation of home building products.

"All of that money [invested in dot-com businesses] is now gone," Wood said, "but the ebuild part of the story has been a huge success."

Hanley Wood has also pursued an innovative strategy in adding fee-based information products such as those sold through Hanley Wood Market Intelligence (formerly Meyers Group). The company also sells housing plans through its eplans business.

Wood said his company has also been innovative in creating a corporate culture of success and open-mindedness to new ideas, which has made it a magnet for top business media talent, such as Frank Anton, Peter Goldstone, Galen Poss and Mitch Rouda.

"When you see an organization with a strong culture you know it," Wood said. "For example, if you were a football player, would you rather sign with the Pittsburgh Steelers or the Arizona Cardinals?" -S. C.

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