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Pazour readies new game plan for Phillips

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Soon after media investment banking firm Veronis, Suhler & Associates L.L.C. bought Phillips Business Information Inc. in October for a reported $120 million, it tapped b-to-b publishing veteran Don Pazour as CEO of the business media company. Potomac, Md.-based PBI's key properties include the RepliTech trade show, AV Video & Multimedia Producer, Via Satellite, Communications Technology, Rotor & Wing and the "Defense Daily" newsletter and Web site.

Pazour had been with defunct Miller Freeman USA for 23 years, rising in 1997 to president-CEO. He left after Dutch-Anglo publisher VNU acquired Miller Freeman last summer for $650 million and brought in its own management team.

Veronis, Suhler has high hopes for Pazour. In addition to raising PBI's low profile, he's expected to boost its annual revenue from a projected $110 million this year to $400 million by 2005. He has a track record of success: He oversaw the growth of Miller Freeman's revenue from $300 million to $700 million within a shorter timeframe.

Last week in a Q&A with BtoB, Pazour discussed his plans for PBI.

BtoB: You've indicated that PBI has underdeveloped its trade show potential. How do you intend to leverage the company's position in trade shows and, in particular, what markets do you intend to target?

Pazour: Now that we have capital from VS&A, we're definitely going to be looking at trade show markets that we're not in, such as aviation and cable TV. PBI has a very good foundation with conferencing in the billing and colocation markets, which are big issues in telecommunications. Our satellite show is growing and I expect to expand that internationally, as well.

PBI actually has a very good trade show with RepliTech, which runs three times a year in the States, Europe and Asia but hasn't been leveraged.

One thing that PBI has that Miller Freeman didn't is high-value information via its newsletters, conferences and market reports. As we look to grow, we'll favor that element of the company. We have good magazines, exceptional newsletters and underdeveloped-yet under development-trade shows.

BtoB: Where do you see PBI's opportunities for acquisitions? Why do you see a need to shift away from organic growth?

Pazour: In an environment where you want to build value over a limited amount of time, growing organically takes a long time and uses up a lot of cash flow. With VS&A wanting to triple the company's value in five years, we need to focus on the markets we're already strong in: media and communications and aviation and defense. We also have a presence in the satellite market, which sort of straddles both markets.

We'll be looking at fill-in or add-on products that can grow these markets. We'll be opportunistic if the situation arises, but we want to be able to plug into products that work well with existing products and can create value for our owners.

BtoB: Will part of your game plan be to raise the dial on PBI's international presence and, if so, in which markets?

Pazour: PBI has a strong telecommunications presence in Europe [25 % of the company's overall revenue]. There's also the RepliTech trade show. One of the things we found at Miller Freeman was at this point the best way to penetrate overseas markets is through trade shows and not magazines. There are too many language barriers to do a magazine. But it's different for trade shows, where you can bring people together and anybody can 'touch and see' the products. This is an observation after the fact.

BtoB: In what areas of PBI do you see the need to enhance the company's presence on the Web?

Pazour: All of them. But that's no different from any other b-to-b company. One area in which PBI has been very aggressive on the Web is in cable. The company has an equity interest in Big Pipe Inc., which is a cable Web site with multiple partners. But we do have to look at new opportunities on the Web. There's a lot we can do.

BtoB: New PBI owner VS&A has over the last year or so morphed into a media company in addition to being a media investment banking firm. Do you see any potential conflicts of interest in that?

Pazour: From an outsider's point of view, I always asked myself that same question. Sure, there's potential for conflict of interest. But the two sides are managed pretty separately.

BtoB: Increasingly, b-to-b publishers in the States are owned by overseas publishers. Do you see this trend continuing, and what are the ramifications for the market?

Pazour: In the last five years the overseas publishers saw value where U.S. players didn't. At the time, you never heard anything about b-to-b. But with the advent of the Internet, b-to-b got very sexy. So the focus has been raised on the b-to-b space in the U.S. because of unique customer bases and established brands. By going public, Penton Media has also changed the perception of b-to-b in the U.S. So have the moves made by Primedia. Whether there is going to be more foreign ownership [in the b-to-b space] is an open question, but the interest in U.S. capital markets is much stronger today than it was even three years ago. And there's even more opportunity for consolidation.

BtoB: You had a 23-year run at Miller Freeman. What made you want to take on the challenge at PBI? Is it the b-to-b bug?

Pazour: I love this business. Being on the buy side when I was at Miller Freeman makes me empathetic to VNU. [VNU USA President John] Wickersham had a solid management team in place, so I knew I wasn't going to stay at Miller. But I wanted to stay in the business with a company that provides a good platform for growth. I can provide more value at PBI than I would at Miller being the third wheel

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