Sale of Nielsen Business Media Would Face RBI Hurdle
Publisher said to be mulling divestiture.
Nielsen Business Media confirmed that the company has combined its Film & Performing Arts and Music & Literary groups to form the Entertainment Group, including products such as Backstage, Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter. Gerry Byrne, who has been an adviser to the company for about a year, has been named senior vice president.
Overshadowing this news are rumors that Nielsen may be considering a sale of its trade titles, as reported by the New York Post earlier this week, indicating that “non-core assets” could be sold “if the right offer materialized.”
The rumors come one week after Reed Elsevier announced plans to divest Reed Business Information, its business sector magazine publisher. Early estimates put a RBI sale at about $2 billion.
In an e-mail to FOLIO:, Nielsen Business Media spokesperson Marisa Grimes wrote that the company does not have plans to sell Nielsen’s Business Media division or its individual publications. According to one industry observer, the idea is “just speculation.”
But others around the industry aren’t so sure. A source tells FOLIO: that it is “highly likely” that Nielsen will sell its business media division “at some point.” “It’s just not a strategic fit with the rest of the company, accounting for only about 10 percent of revenues,” the observer says. “This is more than speculation. There is a plan here that I think will unfold in the next 12 to 18 months.”
Nielsen Business Media also publishes Adweek, Brandweek and Mediaweek magazines. Earlier this month, the publisher said Adweek, which scaled back its frequency from 47 issues per year to 36, saw ad pages decline by nearly 100 in 2007 over 2006.
Not Easy, Not Impossible
A potential sale of Nielsen Business Media could face some significant hurdles including market competition from RBI and potential dilution of NBM’s entry multiple. “When the company was last sold, the total business went for 13 to 14 times EBITDA,” the observer says. “They’re not going to get that multiple now.” Formerly VNU Business Media, Nielsen was purchased in 2006 for $11.1 billion by Valcon Acquisition B.V., a consortium of private equity firms.
“This by no means is impossible, though,” the observer says. “Maybe someone with the right vision and access to enough capital could come along and buy both it and RBI and combine the two. Who knows?”