F+W has purchased Aspire Media, a Loveland, Colorado-based enthusiast publisher serving the craft market and backed by private equity firms Frontenac Company and Catalyst Investors. Terms of the deal were not released, but F+W CEO David Nussbaum says it will add another 30 percent of revenue to the company.
Update: About 200 employees will coming over with the deal, bringing F+W’s total staff count to about 750.
Aspire Media was formed in 2005 with the acquisition of Interweave and is headed by CEO Clay Hall who, along with Aspire CFO Troy Wells, will be leaving the company post-sale. The company has grown into a well-integrated, multiplatform business with products spanning print, digital, e-commerce, live events and television.
The deal substantially increases F+W’s footprint in the craft market, giving the company 15 art and craft magazines, 30 special newsstand publications, a book division, 11 consumer events and a significant digital operation with 33 websites and 10 online communities.
"The Interweave strategy mirrors the strategy set in place for each of our vertical communities. To provide an expertly curated portfolio of quality content, products and services, marketed and sold direct to our comprehensive database of core enthusiasts, through our robust e-commerce store," says Nussbaum in a statement.
Update: Nussbaum later added that the e-commerce and digital operations were key attractions for Aspire. "Interweave has done a great job in building their e-commerce and emedia platforms so the business fits in neatly into F+W’s established digital business. Also, the acquisition gives F+W Media tremendous scale in the growing craft and art sectors. Finally, Interweave’s mantra of content, community, commerce is the same as F+W’s strategy."
Going forward, F+W plans to boost the number of digital magazines produced under the Interweave brand as well as an expansion of the e-commerce and digital businesses. The Interweave brand will remain intact, sasys Nussbaum.
Update: Aspire was essentially at the end of its investment window. Backed by private equity, the company had been in operation for seven years, on the long-side of a typical PE term. "When you get to seven years with a private equity partnership they have an obligation to return invested capital to their investors and this transaction provided us with an opportunity to do that," Aspire’s Hall tells Folio:.
Hall says he had been up front with his employees since the company’s inception that he’d be seeking new investors within five years. "But because that five years coincided with a big disruption, we decided to extend our investment and double-down on digital," he adds.
At this point, Hall says e-commerce and digital both contribute "significant" revenue and says that Aspire still has more room to grow.
The e-commerce element, as well as similar vertical markets, clearly attracted F+W, which has placed an emphasis in growing its own e-commerce business, and Hall says the company was unique in its understanding of Aspire’s platform. "There was a lot of interest from companies that didn’t have the same business model as F+W, a lot of ad-driven businesses that I was concerned didn’t know how to execute on the F+W strategy."
Hall says the sale, brokered by the Jordan, Edmiston Group, was not a broad auction, but a selective process that involved speaking with companies that had expressed interest in Aspire over the years.
Hall has no immediate plans to start another company, but eventually will, he says. "After 35 years I think I’ll take some time to do some fishing and bird hunting and let opportunity find me."