VNU Still Netherlands-based, But Holland Connection is Dwindling
Corporate headquarters now in New York and European titles may be on the market.
VNU B.V. may still be a Netherlands-based company, but all of its corporate executives are now based in the United States, said VNU Business Media’s new CEO, Robert Krakoff this week. "We went from an N.V., which is a Dutch public company, to a B.V., which is a Dutch private company," he said during a telephone call. "All of our executives are in New York at 770 Broadway, but we are still a Dutch company."
VNU currently has 11 divisions based in the Netherlands (its corporate headquarters are in Haarlem), which include subsidiaries of A.C. Nielsen Research, as well as multiple publishing and exhibition divisions. It currently has at least 20 Netherlands-based titles. The company also has subsidiaries and publishing partnerships throughout Europe, Africa, South American, the Middle East and Asia.
Even so, the newly private company also is owned by a group of American-based, private-equity firms and, with rumors swirling that VNU has officially put its European titles on the market, some are wondering whether it’s only a matter of time before the company becomes an American operation. "What is the Holland connection anymore? Not much," questioned one analyst. Asked if the titles are on the block, as some analysts say they are, Krakoff acknowledged that the "rumor is out there," but would not confirm or deny it.
VNU’s hesitation to publicly announce that it is seeking a buyer for its European titles may stem from the terms of its sale contract, which require the consortium of private equity firms that purchased the company in June to refrain from making any major changes to the business for at least 18 months from the date of sale. At least two analysts have told Folio: Alert previously that they expect VNU to announce major changes, including the sale of its European titles and possibly the sale of some its non-core American titles, when the year-and-half waiting period expires.
The stipulation hasn’t stopped VNU from making some corporate restructuring changes over the past month, which included moving former VNU Business CEO Michael Marchesano to the newly created corporate position of executive vice president and chief transformation officer; the hiring of long-time media executive Krakoff to fill Marchesano’s old position, and the hiring of David Calhoun, a 27-year veteran and executive at General Electric Company, to lead VNU B.V. as its CEO.
Calhoun takes the reigns after a drawn-out sales process that was revived last January with an $8 billion bid from Valcon Acquisition B.V., a consortium of private equity firms made up of AlpInvest Partners, The Blackstone Group, The Carlyle Group, Hellman & Freidman, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., and Thomas H. Lee Partners. The six months of negotiations came complete with shareholder dissent and the resignation of CEO Rob van den Bergh. The final sale price in June was $9.7 billion.