The 45-year-old executive last week was named president-CEO of Aspen Marketing Group, an Evergreen, Colo.-based marketing services company that specializes in premiums and promotions.
He succeeds Neil Cannon, 42, who remains chairman.
Mr. Vitale's top priority will be keeping Aspen on the acquisition trail; it has acquired seven companies in the last two years.
Targets include promotion marketing companies. Mr. Vitale says he'll spend his first few days deciding where the greatest opportunities lie.
"We were looking for an extraordinary executive with a proven track record with Wall Street," Mr. Cannon said. "We want to build a $1 billion company as quick as we can."
They still have a ways to go. Aspen claims 1998 revenue of $140 million from such clients as Bayer Corp., Wal-Mart Stores, J.C. Penney Co. and AT&T Corp.
Founded in October 1996, Aspen is majority owned by Brentwood Associates; the rest of the company is held by top management, and Mr. Vitale will have an equity stake. In addition to its Colorado headquarters, Aspen has offices in Atlanta, Chicago and three California cities. Mr. Vitale, who was based in Petersen's Los Angeles office, will remain in California.
Mr. Vitale is no stranger to acquisitions. Three years ago, he was part of an investment team that acquired special-interest magazine publisher Petersen from founder Robert E. Petersen for $465 million. The company went public in 1997. Mr. Vitale left last June, before Petersen's sale to British publisher Emap for $1.5 billion.
Mr. Vitale said his magazine experience will serve him well at Aspen.
"There are lots of opportunities to create a strong, branded presence in marketing services," he said, adding, "There are a lot of parallels between