Cygnus emerges from bankruptcy, names John French CEO

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Fort Atkinson, Wis.—In what was one of the worst-kept secrets in b-to-b media, Cygnus Business Media announced Monday that it has named John French as its CEO.

French, who had been working as a consultant for Cygnus, is the former CEO of Penton Media.

“John French has a very good reputation,” said Mike Parker, managing director of AdMedia Partners. “He didn''t spend a lot of time at Penton, but he helped position that company so that when his successor came in it was a stronger company than when he started. I think he's a good, solid choice.”

Cygnus also announced Monday that it has emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. With the debt-for-equity swap officially completed as part of its bankruptcy agreement, Cygnus, which publishes Firehouse and Kitchen & Bath Design News, is now owned primarily by GE Commercial Lending.

French succeeds Charles Carnaval, an executive at interim management firm Zolfo Cooper, who had been overseeing the company.

The restructuring values Cygnus at about $105 million. CommerceConnect, backed by ABRY Partners, acquired the company in 2000 for $275 million. The restructuring has reduced Cygnus' debt from about $180 million to about $60 million.

“I think it is serviceable,” Parker said of Cygnus' debt, “but that's not to say that (given the economy) that it's not going to be difficult. Like a lot of other (b-to-b media companies) they will have a tough row to hoe.”

In an exclusive interview with BtoB's Media Business (, French said he was attracted to Cygnus because it was a company with powerful brands that was simply saddled with too much debt.

In the Q&A, French discussed his confidence in b-to-b media as a whole, his hopes for Cygnus in particular and his belief that the naming of a CEO provides “clarity” for the company's employees and its future.

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