BIA Digital Partners Wednesday announced it had acquired the assets of Richmond, Virginia-based newsletter and trade magazine publisher Douglas Publications and is changing its name to Briefings Media Group.

I spoke to several knowledgeable M&A sources today who said the acquisition was not a “normal” sale but that BIA—a private investment firm that first invested in Douglas in 2005 as part of Douglas’ estimated $15 million acquisition of the Briefings Publishing Group from Wicks Business Information—took control of Douglas.

“I don’t know if BIA even gave them a dollar for the business, but they took the keys,” one M&A executive said. “It happens. It’s nothing grossly unexpected and not outside the usual playbook.”

“Let’s just say that when an existing lender ‘acquires’ a company, it is not normally a good sign that everything was performing well,” another source said. According to one M&A executive, Douglas was “being shopped around pretty hard” earlier this summer.

“In the current economic and M&A environment, we may see some more of these distressed situations in which there is a limited market for assets and companies have challenges keeping current on covenants and/or debt service,” said a source. “It is not a good thing for the industry, but one of the outcomes of a severe economic downturn and the effective closing of the capital markets.”

These kinds of transactions do occur all the time, but this one is significant because owner/CEO Alan Douglas has long been a high-profile leader in b-to-b circles. For more than 15 years, Douglas has been a familiar and beloved figure in American Business Media, serving as a representative for smaller publishers and their concerns. Douglas also developed the concept for the Integrated Media Consortium, an innovative buying co-op for smaller magazine publishing companies.

Now, it’s not clear whether he remains with the company. Douglas did not return an e-mail requesting comment. BIA did not return several calls and e-mails seeking comment.

“It’s not the greatest of situations, but BIA has been on Douglas’ board of directors,” said one source. “Douglas should do well with BIA taking over the business.”