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Private equity’s dominance grows

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The private equity players that have been fueling the b-to-b media M&A market the past few years are likely to play an even more dominant role in the months ahead, said Robert Garrett, managing director of media investment bank AdMedia Partners.

"The real surprise is the entire market for the last 12 months has completely been driven by private equity," Garrett said. "Strategic companies think they can get better returns elsewhere [than acquiring traditional b-to-b media properties] but the private equity companies are not adopting that approach." He added: "I don't see the old legacy companies playing in this game."

That's partly because there are so few large strategic b-to-b media companies left. Some significant publishers, such as Nielsen Business Media and Penton Media, have recently gone private after being public for years.

Garrett said ALM, which recently went into play, should fetch a high multiple from the private equity field. He said the jury is still out on Ziff Davis Media and Cygnus Business Media. "They've tried to sell but haven't been particularly successful," he said.

Regardless of how things shake out with big-ticket acquisitions, private equity players selling to each other is fast becoming the norm in b-to-b media. Still, Garrett said, "at some point there has to be an end to musical chairs."

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