Kuczynski gets down to business

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Earlier this year, when he was head of his own media advisory firm, Tom Kuczynski worked with Robert Krakoff, former chairman-CEO of Advanstar, to help Blackstone Group identify investment opportunities in b-to-b media.

As a result, Blackstone became one of the private equity firms that acquired VNU this summer. In August, Krakoff was named CEO of VNU Business Media and Kuczynski was named senior VP-corporate development & planning for the business media unit.

Kuczynski, who has a background in M&A consulting as well as executive positions at media companies like Miller Freeman and Penton Media, joins VNU Business Media as work begins on "Project Forward," an under taking to cut annual operating costs by a reported $160 million in three years. Yet Kuczynski said his mission is to profitably grow a business that in the past was too focused on cost containment.

"If you were a jeweler and you purchased the Hope diamond, there's not a lot you can do with it," he said. "We looked at numerous companies from an investment perspective, but VNU was very attractive to us for a number of reasons."

One of VNU Business Media's strengths, according to Kuczynski, is the stable of well-established brands in key markets, such as Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter in the entertainment segment. Its other strength is its position to better leverage assets combined over years of acquisition.

"The level of integration between delivery platforms was not all what it could be," Kuczynski said. "Bob [Krakoff] and I very much believe in a market-focus approach. A large part of our strategy moving forward is figuring out how we can maximize the value we bring to our served markets. We are in large and important markets, and what a lot of people in the recent or [in] this media recession miss out on is that, in the larger markets, total spend on marketing and marking services is growing at a decent clip. What's happening is marketers are choosing to allocate that spend differently."

Kuczynksi has two complaints about the business media, namely that many companies don't group their products by market and that companies don't cover the needs of their existing customer base before trying to reel in new customers with additional products. At VNU, he said, he sees growth opportunities in almost every market the company serves. He declined to be more specific but acknowledged that he wants to grow VNU's data business, pointing to Thomson as a company whose data platform has thrived.

He also plans to look abroad. In September, VNU Business Media expanded into China by launching Contract China , a bimonthly focused on commercial interior design and architecture. The company also tinkered with the notion of bringing its entertainment products to Bollywood, India's thriving film industry, but the idea has been at least temporarily shelved.

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