Wiley wheels and deals

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John Wiley & Sons, a b-to-b media company that is celebrating its bicentennial this year, has made a string of acquisitions in the last few months.

The Hoboken, N.J.-based company has bought several trade titles to bolt on to its existing portfolio of scientific, technical and medical (STM) products.

The addition of the magazines is designed to balance what is largely a subscription-driven business—the reverse of a growing trend among b-to-b media companies to acquire databases to minimize exposure to advertising cycles.

Among Wiley's recent deals:

  • In February, the company completed its acquisition of Blackwell Publishing for $1.10 billion. Blackwell's portfolio, which includes 850 academic, medical and professional journals, has been merged with Wiley's STM portfolio, making it the largest of the company's three main businesses. The others are Professional/Trade and Higher Education.
  • In late January, Wiley bought three b-to-b titles from Carpe Diem Communications for an undisclosed sum. The addition of Contamination Control, Food Quality and PFQ expanded the company's portfolio of life and physical science products.
  • In November, Wiley completed its acquisition of Health Economic Evaluations Database (HEED), an online source of health economic information and evaluations. Financial terms were not disclosed. The acquisition complemented Wiley's expanding Health Economics portfolio, which includes the journal Health Economics and the Cochrane Library, a health care information source.

In addition, Wiley Europe Investment Holdings, a subsidiary of Wiley & Sons, last October announced the acquisition of Whatsonwhen, a U.K.-based provider of travel-related online content, technology and services. Financial terms were not disclosed.

The company intends to share content between Whatsonwhen and Frommer's Travel Guides, which it also owns, said Will Pesce, president-CEO of Wiley & Sons. He added that the effort will also involve Wiley's online service providers, such as Travelocity. "You have geography, content and capabilities all coming together," he said.

Pesce said the main priority with Blackwell is to ramp up its online presence. "You always need to expand content and searchability," he said.

The HEED acquisition, while small, is designed to diversify Wiley's revenue base so it is less reliant on subscriptions.

Richard Mead, managing director of media investment bank Jordan, Edmiston Group, said Wiley is "keen to buy quality businesses and the Blackwell acquisition is spot-on."

Asked about the Carpe Diem deal, Mead said: "There's no reason why anyone should run away from an advertising-driven business if [the magazines] are of top quality and have great market share. People who ignore ad vehicles may be missing an opportunity."

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