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Robert Krakoff, b-to-b publishing veteran, dead at 72

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B-to-b publishing veteran Robert Krakoff died suddenly last week, seven months after taking charge of Nielsen Business Media/VNU Business Media. He was 72.

Krakoff’s death comes during a period of transition for Nielsen Business Media, which publishes Billboard, Editor & Publisher and The Hollywood Reporter, among other trade titles.

In August 2006, Krakoff joined then-VNU Business Media from his post as chairman-CEO of Blantyre Partners, a strategic management and investment company working in association with private equity giant Blackstone Group in the area of b-to-b media.

He played a key role in the $11 billion acquisition of VNU last summer by six private equity companies, including Blackstone. The business media unit generates about $750 million in annual revenue—the smallest total among Nielsen’s three main divisions. (The other two divisions are Nielsen Media Research and ACNielsen, the world’s top marketing information company.)

Since taking the helm in August, Krakoff had made several moves designed to derive more value from Nielsen Business Media.

He sold the VNU Business Media Europe portfolio, individual publications Architecture, Architectural Lighting and Sporting Goods Business, as well as launching Hospitality Design—Asia Pacific & Middle East and announced a partnership with Burrill & Co. to form Burrill Life Sciences Media Group.

Another move, announced in December, was a massive reorganization of Nielsen/VNU that includes cutting 4,000 jobs, or roughly 10% of the company’s work force, this year.

Even before the December reorganization was unveiled, Krakoff in November restructured VNU Business Publications, VNU Expositions and VNU eMedia & Information Marketing into six distinct operating groups: marketing, film, music, retail, residential and commercial building design, and marketing services and travel.

“You don’t look at magazines or trade shows, but markets and how you can grow those markets either organically or through acquisition,” Krakoff told Media Business last September.

A fixture in business publishing for decades, Krakoff ran Advanstar Communications (1996-2004) and also worked for Reed Elsevier for 23 years, rising to the post of vice chairman (1996). He served as chairman of American Business Media in 2003-04.

“He was a giant in our business and bigger than life,” said Gordon Hughes II, president-CEO of ABM, who called Krakoff a “very dear friend.” “His contributions were not just for the companies he ran, but he was a leader for the industry.”

Hughes said Krakoff was instrumental in developing the CEBA (Creative Excellence in Business Advertising) Awards and ABM’s Business Information Network (BIN), which tracks ad spending in business media. Krakoff was the 2002 recipient of ABM’s McAllister Top Management Fellowship award for career leadership in business-to-business media.

Longtime b-to-b publishing executive Jim Casella, CEO of Case Interactive Media, and a former vice chairman of Reed Elsevier, amplified Hughes’ comments, saying that Krakoff provided long-term vision for the industry.

“He established the trade show business for Cahners/Reed Business and understood the high impact of a tightly integrated platform for marketers that included events, print and online,” Casella said. “During his tenure as ABM’s chairman he gave of himself, without question, to the issues that were of importance to all the members. He will be sorely missed.”

Krakoff was active in both business and community affairs. He sat on the board of Irvine, Calif.-based Freedom Communications Inc., which publishes the Orange County Register and was also a trustee of the Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston.

He graduated from Pennsylvania State University with a bachelor’s degree in business and held a master’s degree from Harvard Business School.

Krakoff’s death was reported in a memo distributed March 23 to Nielsen Co. employees by Chairman-CEO David Calhoun. The memo said Krakoff died unexpectedly in his apartment in Boston, although it did not specify the cause of death.

“Since joining our organization late last year, Bob has made a strong impact on our organization, both personally and professionally,” the memo said. “Bob was a consummate professional, a valued adviser and a wonderful friend.”

A company spokeswoman would not comment on a replacement, but Nielsen Business Media COO Greg Farrar is expected to run the company on an interim basis.

Krakoff is survived by his wife, Sandra; two sons, Roger and Reed; and a daughter, Hope.

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