Tom Kemp: Managing Director, VSS
A former public-company CEO reinvents himself as an investment-bank operator.
At the DeSilva + Phillips magazine M&A conference in February, Tom Kemp sat at the reserved table during the first-day keynote, a place of honor for the former CEO of Penton Media.
What made that position of status especially interesting is that Kemp is a managing director at Veronis Suhler Stevenson, which continues to maintain a deal brokerage operation even as it transitions to being a purely investment-fund company. Kemp’s presence was thus striking in that he was without doubt the only person from a D+P rival;even a vestigial rival;to attend.
Kemp left Penton Media in 2004 after a series of dramatic and highly public setbacks, including the collapse of several tech businesses the company had acquired for hundreds of millions, and a delisting from the New York Stock Exchange. But where many others might have quietly disappeared, Kemp has ebulliently bounced back in a completely different role, remaking himself into a major player in the network of relationships that fuels magazine M&A.
Says Frank Anton, CEO of Hanley Wood, "The Tom Kemp story reminds me of Bill Buckner, a great player who made one big, highly visible error. Tom is a smart and successful businessperson. He is articulate and personable and unselfish. At Penton he overinvested in the electronic media market at just the wrong time. He took a big gamble and lost. Now, he’s back in the game and back on top of the game, which is where he belongs."
After leaving Penton, Kemp signed on with VSS as advisor to the CEOs of the VSS operating companies (Access Intelligence and Ascend Media). He also is a key rainmaker for the growing VSS lending portfolio. Among his accomplishments in his less-than-two-year stint at VSS are putting that company’s mezzanine lending business on the map with several key loans, including a $13 million facility to Schofield Media, whose Andrew Schofield was featured in the March Folio:. In Kemp’s time at VSS, the mezzanine lending business has grown from nothing to more than $25 million in loans outstanding.
VITAL STATS: Kemp has assisted operating companies on acquisition evaluation and helped grow the VSS mezzanine lending business to more than $25 million in outstanding loans.