Rumors have circulated for weeks that Lebhar-Friedman is selling its flagship title, Nation’s Restaurant News, to Penton Media. Now a Mediabistro report says Lebhar will also sell Dowden Health Media to a group of investors this week.
The sales are seen as part of a plan to pay back GE Capital, which financed Lebhar’s estimated $40 million acquisition of Dowden Health Media in 2005 (at the time, some private equity bankers told FOLIO: "We understand LF’s desire to grow beyond the core base, but question this type of move. They paid a large premium to acquire a relatively small player and one that appears off-base in its launch of new regional titles.")
In 2006, Dowden Health Media founder Carroll Dowden bought back the consumer magazine division of Dowden Health Media in a deal for four regional titles with combined revenues under $10 million. Last year, Lebhar-Friedman sold Dowden Professional Publications to multimedia communications company Quadrant HealthCom Inc. Included in the deal were Dowden’s four medical journals: OBG Management, Current Psychiatry, The Journal of Family Practice and Mayo Clinic Proceedings and its events division.
Nation’s Restaurant News cut frequency in recent years from 51 to about 26, and observers are wondering what Penton-which already owns Restaurant Hospitality-will do with it. Sources claim NRN has lost nearly 20,000 paid subscribers since 2004 as well as 40 percent of its ad base (neither Lebhar-Freidman nor Penton Media answered requests for comment). Last December, Nation’s Restaurant News announced a number of personnel changes including retail and foodservice groups group publisher Randall Friedman taking over as publisher for Tom Larranaga.
If Lebhar Friedman succeeds in selling the remainder of Dowden Health Media and NRN, that would leave the publisher with four retail-focused publications: Home Channels News, Chain Store Age, Retailing Today and Drug Store News.
"Things are a lot different when you’re not privately held, and if Roger Friedman hadn’t gotten into it with the banks, he could have done whatever he wanted," says one source. "Now it’s a situation in which the bank wants more money."