BtoB

Prism's purchasing power

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It was a quite a busy holiday shopping season for Prism Business Media.

In the same week in late December that it changed its name from PBI Media Holdings (formerly Primedia Business Information), Prism made two major acquisitions to add to its portfolio of b-to-b media products.

Prism bought the Ward's automotive properties from Primedia Inc., including Ward's AutoWorld, Ward's Dealer Business, Ward's Information Products and Ward's Auto Interiors Show and Conference. Jim Bush, a 24-year Ward's veteran, will continue as managing director of the Ward's products.

In the second deal, Prism acquired the assets of aviation directory publisher Boston Aviation Services. BAS' publications include The Air Charter Guide, The Executive Traveler Edition and The Cellular Pilot. BAS founder and CEO Fred Gavalt III will continue to direct the properties, which will operate as part of Prism Business Media's Information Data Products Group.

Financial terms of the Ward's and BAS deals were not disclosed.

Prism got its start in September when U.S. Equity Partners II, an investment fund sponsored by Wasserstein & Co. and by co-investors Highfields Capital Management and Lexington Partners, purchased the bulk of Primedia's b-to-b media portfolio for $385 million.

With Ward's and BAS in the mix, Prism now owns 70-plus magazines and more than 130 Web sites. It also owns more than 20 trade shows and over 450 rich data products.

Prism operates in 20 markets, including marketing, transportation, electrical and public services, and agribusiness.

"We're going to surprise a lot of people," said John French, president-CEO of Prism, who was exec VP of Primedia Business. "Primedia's b-to-b products, in an enthusiast media company, didn't always get the exposure we thought we deserved."

French said the company bought BAS because of its strength in data products. "Magazines and trade shows are important, but information data products continue to show growth," he said. "We have a unique opportunity to take the attributes of data products and integrate them more effectively into both our print products and trade shows."

French said the company was able to buy Ward's because Primedia realized it could not market the portfolio to enthusiasts. "It's a b-to-b business," he said.

French said additional acquisitions would be forthcoming, although he would not elaborate.

"The bottom line is that Prism certainly intends to be a player and not a wallflower," said Baran Rosen, president of media investment advisory firm Whitestone Communications. "The firm is going to be more active moving forward and could conceivably replace the old Primedia as the principal buyer of b-to-b products. ... [Wasserstein & Co. Chairman Bruce] Wasserstein didn't buy that business to sit on his hands." 

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