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Gary Ingersoll, a former top executive in the trade business publishing divisions of Capital Cities/ABC, faces a formidable job as the next CEO of troubled Advanstar Communications.

Goldman, Sachs & Co., majority common stockholder in the trade publisher, last week tapped Mr. Ingersoll, 58, to take the post effective Jan. 1 with the mandate to return Advanstar to profitability. His compensation package is about $500,000 a year, sources said.

Mr. Ingersoll was known as a tough cost cutter at Cap Cities, where he was most recently president of Chilton Publishing, Carol Stream, Ill. He left Cap Cities in 1993 to be president of commercial printer George Rice & Sons, Los Angeles, a unit of World Color Press.

Mr. Ingersoll faces enormous challenges at Advanstar. The company has long-term debt of $170 million and is on the brink of defaulting to its major lenders before yearend. It's scrambling to renegotiate loan agreements.

Reached at his Indianapolis home, Mr. Ingersoll said: "Despite all the financial troubles, I think most of them are behind us and next year will be a successful year for us."

Mr. Ingersoll said he's "not involved" in the current round of negotiations with banks but added, "I expect them to be resolved in the near future." Asked about his reputation as a cost cutter, he said, "If it demands cost control, I'll do it."

Cleveland-based Advanstar is a diversified trade publisher covering industries including pharmaceuticals, fashion and retailing. Its 54 titles include business-to-business magazines, newsletters and annuals.

Through the first nine months of this year, operating income plunged 67% from the same period a year ago, to $5.6 million. Revenue rose less than 1% to $105.3 million. Most of Advanstar's recent financial woes are tied to the publishing unit and several ill-fated consumer trade shows in the Exposition Division.

One day after Goldman Sachs' announcement, the company laid off the 20 staffers of its three remaining plastics publications, and may have a deal to sell them. As for Advanstar's struggling medical titles, a company spokeswoman said they are "still in a turnaround situation." The publications include Physician's Management, Modern Medicine and Hospital Formulary.

Mr. Ingersoll succeeds interim CEO Richard Swank, a board member and former CEO asked to return in August after Ed Aster's sudden resignation. Mr. Swank stepped in before, in April 1990, when financial problems forced out Edgell Communications founder and then-CEO Robert Edgell. Mr. Swank completed a bankruptcy reorganization in early '92, renaming the company Advanstar Communications. As part of the restructuring, Goldman Sachs' Water Street Recovery fund took a major position.

Many industry observers were surprised by the appointment of Mr. Aster, a brassy entrepreneurial-style executive who took over in early 1993 after Advanstar bought Aster Publishing, a medical publisher. As part of the deal, Advanstar assumed much of Aster's debt. Mr. Aster was given about 10% of Advanstar's stock, a board seat and the CEO job.

One of Mr. Aster's first actions, in March 1993, was to move the plastics titles from Denver to Eugene, Ore., prompting the departure of many executives, who started rival publications. Advertising collapsed for the Advanstar plastics titles, plummeting from $7 million a year to just over $2 million. Plastics Machinery & Equipment, Plastics Design Forum and Plastics Compounding were then put on the block.

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