Ascend Media, said to be “exploring its options” in terms of a sale, could be sold in pieces, an M&A source said this week.

Ownership of the Overland Park, Kansas-based publisher has been transferred from management and private equity groups Veronis Suhler Stevenson and CCMP to a group of investors led by Wells Fargo, according to a BtoB report.

One industry observer told FOLIO: that Ascend’s lenders might look to sell its assets quickly in an attempt to recoup as much of their debt as possible. "My guess is that they will break up the operation into discreet units that could be sold in parts, to different buyers," the source said. "In this market, the potential buyers are most likely strategic operating companies with positions in the specific markets in which Ascends operates. It is highly unlikely that another financial buyer would acquire the entire company after the historical track record of the combined assets.”

While the source said Ascend’s assets would be able to "attract cash flow multiples of low-mid single digits" if sold together in the current market, another M&A executive said any sale would be a "small deal”—a sum between $20 million and $25 million.

Difficult Market

Ascend has seen a series of foldings and divestitures in the face of a difficult healthcare market. In 2007, the publisher 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 February 2008, Ascend sold its Princeton, New Jersey-based Ascend Health division to Intellisphere, publisher of the MD Net Guide journal series for physicians. Following the sale, Ascend was made up of four divisions: Allied Health, Practice Builders, and its exhibitions and continuing medical education divisions.

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.

Following the sale of its Health division, the company’s revenues were said to be closer to $60 million.