Troubled times call for changes

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In a keynote address at ABM's Top Management Meeting last month in Chicago, John Suhler, co-founder and general partner of private equity firm Veronis Suhler Stevenson, reminded attendees that they are not alone in their current struggles. “I don't care whether you're talking about revenue, cost pressures, secular trends or the immediate weight on your shoulders caused by the downturn, all of you should feel very comfortable that you've got company,” he said. “Even though less than half [of the revenue] of businesses we own—and we own 32 active businesses today—is advertising or marketing driven, every one of these businesses is being confronted.” At the same time, Suhler said, his 30 years of experience investing in media and information companies has taught him that “the current liquidity crisis is certainly dramatic, but it's not new and we will come out of it.” Referring to the latest VSS Communications Industry Forecast, Suhler noted that the b-to-b media sector is being affected less severely than some others by the steady migration of media spending to the Web. Worse off, he said, are newspapers, consumer magazines, broadcast and satellite radio, and broadcast TV. Nonetheless, Suhler urged ABM members not to be complacent. In addition to continuing to build their e-media and live event offerings to offset declining print revenue, b-to-b media companies should pursue opportunities in the large and fast-growing sector of business information that is targeted at the “institutional end user,” he said.
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