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Latest Reorg Leaves Observers Wondering About Cygnus



By Jason Fell
07/26/2007

All eyes have been on Carr Davis and Anthony O'Brien since Cygnus Business Media owners ABRY Partners appointed them co-CEOs last August after parting ways with former CEO Paul Mackler. Davis and O'Brien were said to have been tapped as part of an effort to take Cygnus in a more digital-focused direction. In the months since, CBM has undergone a number of personnel changes, including new hires from outside the industry and the termination of much of its senior management staff.

The reorganization effort continued this week when Davis and O'Brien announced in a memo to employees the creation of five director positions to oversee the company's portfolio of 15 brands. Also as part of the effort, nine people, including some longtime staffers such as group vice president of publishing Paul Bowers and Bob Stange, senior vice president of custom marketing;were laid off. Other layoffs include several "long-term publishers."

What the logic is behind the creation of the brand directors and other personnel restructuring isn't clear. In the memo, Davis and O'Brien (who declined to be interviewed for this story) attribute it to "accelerating the rapid growth" of business. Some industry insiders are more skeptical.

"From what I've heard, revenues [at Cygnus] have come in significantly less than expected this year and expenses have been higher than planned," says an observer from the financial community. "Bottom line, when a restructuring occurs, especially one with layoffs, you can guarantee it's all about cost-cutting.

"It's hard to judge what [Davis and O'Brien] have accomplished so far, but we know they were brought in to accelerate Cygnus' development of its media assets," the source continues. "So far, we've seen them moving people around and eliminating a number of longtime Cygnus employees. At the end of the day, they need to be increasing revenue and growth. It seems now like they're cutting costs and retrenching because they're not living up to the promises they made to ABRY."

Some say naming just five brand managers to oversee the company's 15 different brands is a questionable move as well. "Several of the new brand managers are managing portfolios significantly larger than they are accustomed," says a source. "Since the brand managers are spread between such divergent properties, combined with the loss of significant depth of Cygnus experience the last year, it's hard to imagine the changes will result in immediate revenue and marketing growth. Whether this means they are gearing up to be for sale again or reducing costs remains to be seen."

The newly appointed brand directors include: Patrick Bernardo, director of the Law Enforcement, Tools and Transportation Group; Gloria Cosby, director of the Jewelry, Food and Supply Chain Group; Shari Dodgen, director of the Aviation, Services, Transit and Marketing Group; Kris Flitcroft, director of the Construction, Metalworking and Landscaping Group; and Patty Maroder, director of the Public Safety and Imaging Group.

By Jason Fell
07/26/2007







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