UBM Sells Light Reading Back to Founder
Stephen Saunders takes over, with UBM retaining minority stake.
UBM has sold Light Reading, a digital and events brand covering the telecom industry back to Stephen Saunders, one of its original founders. Terms of the deal were not released, but UBM will retain a "significant minority stake" in the operation.
Saunders sold Light Reading to UBM in 2005 for about $27 million, going on to start up Internet Evolution, an Internet tech news site.
He was later re-hired by UBM in 2010 to start up its DeusM marketing services operation, which is structured around a community-publishing system. That system later became the foundation for all of UBM Tech’s online brands, including EE Times and Information Week.
Saunders says he plans to double the size of Light Reading’s database and hire a dozen new staff in its editorial and analytics groups.
Update: According to a UBM spokesperson, the company, much like it had with the Channel Group which also ended in a management buyout, decided that Light Reading did not offer big enough opportunities going forward.
"It was a very straightforward decision. It’s very successful as a business, but in looking at the range of businesses that UBM wanted to address, this one didn’t offer the same opportunities the others did for UBM Tech," he says.
The spokesperson declined to elaborate on sale terms or the size of UBM’s stake in Light Reading.
Update: Saunders tells Folio: that going forward, UBM Tech will be more focused on its enterprise technology coverage. "Light Reading did not fit particularly well in that portfolio," he says. "It sat off to the side a little bit. [UBM was] sensible to recognize that and understand that Light Reading is a specialized market. Telecom is very different and driven almost exclusively by relationships. It doesn’t follow the same rules."
Saunders adds that he’ll actually still be working for UBM even though his work setting up and establishing the DeusM operation was complete. "I’ll be coming up with these very expensive, ultra-custom marketing concepts for big companies," he says.
Similarly, in the next month or so Light Reading will be announcing its own marketing services group, called Light Reading Innovation Lab, that will be building large scale, custom marketing projects for customers. One currently in works has a $5 million price tag, says Saunders.
Saunders also declined to offer any specifics on deal terms, but described the deal as a very good one—for both parties. He adds that with much of the overhead that a larger corporate structure imposes now gone, he will apply that savings to expanding staff and infrastructure as well as adjusting customer pricing downward. "They will get a better program that delivers more and pay less for it."