Reaching for the Summit

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What is in a b-to-b media name? Wind Point Partners' simultaneous acquisitions of b-to-b media companies Highline Media and Pfingsten Publishing may provide a clue.

Private equity firm WPP bought the two trade publishers Nov. 9 and combined them to form Summit Business Media. Financial terms were not disclosed, but people familiar with the moves pegged the combined value of the deals at between $190 million and $200 million.

The new company was formed in partnership with Bill Reilly, former chairman-CEO of Primedia, who has been named Summit's chairman-CEO. Andrew Goodenough remains president-CEO of Highline Media, and Joe Bennett remains president of Pfingsten Publishing.

While the new company is up and running, its name could pose a problem, as "Summit" already is being used by another b-to-b publishing house.

Summit Publishing Co. publishes Packaging World (87,500 circ.) and has several other print, online and event properties, while sibling Summit Media owns Automation World, a monthly business publication targeting 70,000 automation professionals.

Lloyd Ferguson, president of Summit Publishing, said he is considering legal action if a compromise cannot be reached with Summit Business Media. "I am stunned by the fact that they didn't see `Summit' in a title search or due diligence," he said.

Asked if the name might sow confusion, Jim TenBroek, a managing director at Wind Point, said: "It's a different name. People tend to know business books by title, and we're going to market with our titles and not as Summit Business Media."

TenBroek said Wind Point is providing Summit Business Media with a "substantial equity commitment to grow the business."

Pfingsten Publishing, a subsidiary of private equity firm Pfingsten Partners, covers nine market segments through three business groups. Its magazines include American Agent & Broker, Art Business News, Contractor Tools & Supplies, DECOR, Framing Monthly, Life Insurance Selling, Mortgage Originator, MRO Today, Progressive Distributor and Volume. It also has a variety of online and event properties.

Highline Media owns National Underwriter Co., whose titles include Claims, Life/Health, National Underwriter Property/Casualty and Tech Decisions. It also owns insurance and banking data assets and Wealth Manager.

"Both companies have strong platforms with complementary assets and skill," said Scott Peters, managing director of Jordan, Edmiston Group, which represented Pfingsten in the transaction. "Highline is strong in electronic products and Pfingsten is strong in events."

However, one industry observer said he was puzzled by the deal. "The emphasis today is on a more focused portfolio, whereas Reilly's [new] portfolio is more diversified," said the observer, who asked not to be identified. "It could be that Reilly ? has a strategy on how to run a diversified company, but owning both companies runs counter to b-to-b media trends."

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