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Lenders Could Take Control of Cygnus ‘Within 30 Days’

Sources: Former Penton CEO John French might be tapped as new chief executive.



By Jason Fell
04/03/2009

The long-awaited sale of Cygnus Business Media might not happen after all. Senior lender GE Commercial Finance is said to be working out the details of a debt-for-equity exchange with its other lenders which would transfer formal equity control from Boston-based ABRY Partners.

According to one source, financial service provider Barclays is also involved in the talks. Ownership negotiations could be finalized within the next 30 days and would help the b-to-b publisher avoid filing for Chapter 11, in part, by "significantly reducing its debt," FOLIO: has been told.

Cygnus owner ABRY Partners has been exploring a sale since last summer. Wasserstein and Co. emerged as the likely buyer and a deal was expected to be finalized last August. By November, however, negotiations dissipated and the groups “went in different directions.”

Cygnus—which laid off 30 staffers last week and shut down a pair of photography magazines—has been headed on an interim basis by Charlie Carnaval, an executive with Zolfo Cooper, a New York-based firm that specializes in corporate restructuring and interim management solutions. GE will look to name a new chief executive shortly after assuming control of the company.

“Look for [former Penton CEO] John French to take over as new CEO,” a source told FOLIO: this week. Cygnus’ co-CEOs Carr Davis and Tony O’Brien stepped down in January.

Last Fall, Moody’s Investors Service downgraded three of Cygnus Business Media’s ratings as a result of the publisher’s disclosure that it is in default under the financial covenants of its senior secured loan agreements. According to the ratings service, Cygnus failed to comply with terms of its first lien senior secured loan agreement and its Series A preferred shareholders agreement. Cygnus had not announced plans to fund the payment of approximately $167 million in debt which is scheduled to mature in July 2009.

Cygnus also missed its loan payment in January, which was said to be about $9 million.

Earlier this year, Cygnus eliminated its 401(k) contribution program and froze employee salaries.

By Jason Fell
04/03/2009




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