Advantage Business Marketing—the Rockaway, N.J.-based B2B media company formerly known as Advantage Business Media until rebranding in a last-ditch pivot to marketing services a year ago—abruptly shut its doors this week, notifying its more than 50 employees that they were out of a job, effective immediately, and would not be receiving severance packages, according to multiple sources.
The private equity-backed publisher of titles like R&D Magazine, Laboratory Equipment and ECN, among several others, didn’t respond to voicemails or emails (repeated calls to its corporate offices went unanswered), but current and former staffers as well as others close to the situation say that employees were notified on Monday that ABM was ceasing operations after 13 years and filing for bankruptcy protection.
Formed in 2006 when founders Rich Reiff and George Fox, backed by Catalyst Investors, acquired a handful of titles from Reed Business Information, ABM was sold to Austin, Texas-based private equity firm Owner Resource Group in 2014, at which time Jim Lonergan succeeded Reiff as CEO. Lonergan was in turn replaced, last April, by Bruce Cummings, then-CEO of business process outsourcing firm Gila LLC, who was brought in to accelerate ABM’s transition from a B2B publisher to a “digital marketing platform provider,” according to a company announcement at the time.
In January, the company launched the Advantage Business Network, a series of long-form, TV news-style broadcasts meant to draw from across the company’s portfolio of titles and augment ABM’s internal pivot to focusing on cross-brand marketing-services offerings for clients.
“They couldn’t have screwed it up any worse,” said one former employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Apart from a round of layoffs last week, which sources say impacted about eight employees total, staffers were apparently unaware that the company was in immediate jeopardy until being informed on Monday that ABM was filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, that their employment was terminated and that they had until the afternoon to gather their belongings and vacate company property.
“It wasn’t a complete shock. We all knew things weren’t going well; people were jumping ship left and right,” said another staffer, who added that employees were expecting to hear about more restructuring at the all-hands meeting on Monday, not an outright closure. “We were confident that there was some kind of plan to turn things around.”
“I’ve never seen anything this shady in my career,” said a third former staffer, who left the company earlier this year. “Everything was mismanaged and employees were left totally in the dark.”
Owner Resource Group did not immediately respond to a request for comment, either. This is a developing story.