Co-founder and President ﾕ Club & Resort Business
His magazine made a comeback, but is also representative of a phenomenon of big-company executives striking out on their own – without private equity.
Club & Resort Business, published by Westlake, Ohio-based Harbor Communications, targets operations and management staff at country clubs, yacht clubs and semi-private or daily-fee clubs. The magazine, co-founded by Dan Ramella and Bill Donohue (former Penton Media president and retail media division head, respectively), debuted in 2005 with a controlled circulation of 28,000. The magazine had a remarkable recovery after a rough first year and it’s now profitable, but Ramella and Donohue’s operation is also a stellar example of former big-company executives striking out on their own to form self-funded media companies, with an emphasis on print.
“The private-equity guys come in and take such a strong position;they look to turn their business in a three to five-year timeframe,” says Ramella. “They want to have something sexier and that tends to be e-media. But that relative value and importance tends to vary by market, and our market is not that technical yet.”
Due to non-compete restrictions in place after he left Penton, Ramella set up shop in a market where he literally had no contacts. “We had zero credibility,” he says. “We had zero friends we could ask, ﾑHey, throw me a few pages.’ So we laid it on the value of the product.”
Club & Resort Business achieved 70 percent direct request circulation within its first seven months, but advertisers remained a challenge. “We expected in the first year we’d do about $700,000,” says Ramella, but the magazine did only $337,000.
Despite a dramatic topline shortfall, the costs came in well under projections, softening the loss, which, says Ramella, was less than half of the revenue shortfall. The title closed in on $1 million in revenues by the end of 2006, and has broken into the black this year.
In the meantime, Ramella has relaunched the Web site and debuted a sponsored awards event. But at the center of it all, still, is the magazine. “The underlying thought is magazines that are well-edited and circulated to the right audience are wonderful for advertisers,” he says. “It still works, it’s not broken.”
Club & Resort Business, a 28,000-circ magazine made a stunning comeback to achieve profitability in its second year after making only half of its projected revenues in year one.