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Ascend Media Holdings Files for Chapter 7 Liquidation

Final step in long divestment process.



By Jason Fell
11/03/2009

After a lengthy process of selling off all but one of its business divisions, Overland Park, Kansas-based trade publisher Ascend Media Holdings has filed for Chapter 7 liquidation under the U.S. bankruptcy code.

According to the bankruptcy petitions filed last month on behalf of Ascend and its affiliates, the company carries nearly $15 million in liabilities compared to only $25,704 in estimated assets (personal property). The company said it carries $10.98 million in secured claims, $172,114 in unsecured priority claims and $3.78 million in unsecured non-priority claims.

Ascend Media Holdings is the remnant of a once large company of about $150 million in revenue. Over the last two years its private equity owners have been divesting it in pieces and the Chapter 7 liquidation filing represents the official, legal declaration of intent.

One of those divested pieces, the company’s event and custom media division, was acquired in September by Cameron Bishop, the former CEO of Ascend Media, who retained the name Ascend Media, leaving one ongoing company of that name and another with a similar name that is liquidating. Ascend sold its Allied Healthcare division to Anthem Media Group in August and sold its Practice Developers group shortly before that.

Under Chapter 7, an impartial U.S. trustee was named in order to administer Ascend’s case and liquidate or sell its remaining assets. Ascend indicated that after any exempt property is excluded and administrative expenses are paid that “there will be no funds available for distribution to unsecured creditors.”

Ascend said it has between 100 and 199 creditors, the majority being unsecured non-priority claims. Among its secured creditors are Wells Fargo and GE Commercial Finance. BPA International, Hallmark Data Systems, Omniture and Quebecor World (now Worldcolor) are among its unsecured non-priority creditors.

A creditors’ meeting was scheduled for November 30 in federal court in Trenton, New Jersey.

Divesting Since 2007

Until last month, Ascend was shopping its final remaining business division: the Ascend Institute for Medical Education. When contacted by FOLIO: about the status of the group Ascend CEO Vicki Masseria declined to comment.

In June, Ascend was reportedly “exploring its options” after ownership of the former trade magazine publisher was transferred from management and private equity groups Veronis Suhler Stevenson and CCMP to a group of investors led by Wells Fargo.

Ascend sold off its 17-title Professional Service Division, shut down three titles (Physicians Money Digest, Family Practice Recertification and Internal Medicine World Report), divested its four-title dental group and sold Expo magazine to FOLIO: parent company Red 7 Media in 2007. In February 2008, Ascend sold its Princeton, New Jersey-based Ascend Health division to Intellisphere, publisher of the MD Net Guide journal series for physicians.

In 2004, Ascend acquired Medical World Communications for $130 million, transforming it into a company with revenues of about $150 million. While the Medical World acquisition was credited at the time for "making" Ascend, many observers blamed that deal for putting the company in a position it couldn't dig itself out of.

By Jason Fell
11/03/2009




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