After spending the better part of a year selling-off pieces of its company, Primedia continued a 2007 buying spree this week making two acquisitions. On Wednesday, the company said its Consumer Source group acquired the Web site RentalHouses.com. Today, it announced the purchase of Toronto-based VerticalScope’s Modified Automotive Group – its third acquisition of the new year.
The Modified Automotive Group deal, the terms of which were not disclosed, includes Modified Magazine, Modified Luxury & Exotics Magazine, Modified Mustangs Magazine, and their related event partnerships and Web sites. DeSilva + Phillips represented VerticalScope in the transaction.
Modified Automotive Group was founded in July 2002 as the publisher Modified Magazine, a title for sport compact and import car enthusiasts. Modified Luxury & Exotics Magazine was launched in November 2004 and caters to the high-end market. Modified Mustangs, launched in October 2005, targets the younger car enthusiasts.
Primedia plans to incorporate the RentalHouses.com site into its own Rentals.com Web site, adding the listings to HomeRentalAds.com, RentClicks.com and ApartmentGuide.com listings. According to the company, Rentals.com will carry almost 62 percent of all paid small-unit rental listings on the Internet.
Primedia sold off several pieces of its company last year. Among the divisions and products to go were its Crafts group, which went to Sandler Capital Management for $132 million; its Gems group, which went to Interweave Press for an undisclosed price; and the hunting, fishing and shooting assets from its Outdoors group to Intermedia Partners for $170 million.
In January of this year, Primedia made its first buy, acquiring Pro-Motion Motorsports, publisher of MiniMoto Magazine and the producer of EnduroCross and MiniMoto SX events.
But at least one more sale may be in the company’s future. In December, the company said it planned to classify its education segment as a “discontinued operation in the fourth quarter” while it explores strategic options for the assets of the segment. Many believe Primedia is looking to sell the group, which hasn’t performed well in recent months.
While Primedia reported slight increases in revenues in its Consumer and Enthusiast groups in the first nine months of last year, it reported a 15.8 percent decline in revenues from its Education group. The company plans to announce its full-year 2006 results Feb. 27.
Reed Phillips, managing partner of DeSilva + Phillips, said in a recent interview that he expects the company to continue divesting until private equity group KKR, Primedia’s largest shareholder and effective owner, recoups its investment. “KKR wants to close out their investment in the company,” he said. “And I think selling it off in pieces has been an effective strategy for them, more effective than I would have thought.”
In 2005, the company sold its b-to-b division to Wasserstein & Co. for $385 million, and Web portal About.com, which it paid $690 million for in 2000, to the New York Times Co. for $410 million. The Consumer Source spin-off will pay Primedia a dividend of $484 million at the time of the spin-off, which Primedia says it will use to pay down some of its $1.32 billion in debt.