101communications Sold to Group Led by Former Reed Exec Neal Vitale

SANDI CAIN, NEWS EDITOR
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Chatsworth, CA – After actively seeking a buyer since October, 101communications LLC finalized its sale to 1105 Media Inc. on April 10th. Private equity firms Nautic Partners and Alta Communications are backing  the new ownership group with Neal Vitale, who had senior executive roles at Petersen Publishing, Reed Elsevier, and Aspen Marketing Group. 101communications’ portfolio includes nine publications, 44 conferences and events and various Web services.

Its print portfolio includes the Redmond Channel Partner, which last month received a Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award. T.H.E. Journal and Federal Computer Week are among its other publications. 101’s events portfolio includes TDWI seminars on business intelligence, Knowledge Management Conference & Exhibition and Recharger World Expo.

Jeffrey S. Klein, president and CEO of 101communications, is widely credited for turning 101communications around. He has stepped down from the position of president and CEO and will assume a strategic, non-operational role as a non-executive chairman of the board. Neal Vitale was named president and CEO of both parent company 1105 Media Inc. and 101communications.

“The growth potential at 101 is particularly attractive, given its market-leading properties and the opportunities for new products in print, events and online,” said Michael Joe, managing director of Providence, RI-based Nautic Partners.

Klein said the sale was inspired in part by maturation of the Frontenac Co. ownership fund that was formed more than seven years ago.“That’s a long time in the private equity world,” he said. Klein said the sale generated a lot of interest from potential suitors.

101communications, formed in 1998, posted a loss following the economic downturn in 2002. But its EBITDA saw a compound annual growth rate of 25% between 2002 and 2005 under Klein’s leadership. Last year, the company’s revenue grew 10% and its EBITDA grew by 40%. The company reportedly has between $50 million and $100 million in annual revenue.

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Outside sources last week estimated the sale to be in the $70 million to $75 million range. Merrill Lynch provided financing for the purchase. The Jordan, Edmiston Group Inc. represented 101communications shareholders, including Chicago-based Frontenac Co., in the sale.

Nautic, the successor to Fleet Equity Partners, focuses on business services, healthcare, manufacturing, media and telecommunications industries. It currently has $1.8 billion under management and has been actively courting companies ripe for growth, recapitalization, buyout or consolidation. Its recent purchases range from a human resources company and an auto repair company to freight and carpet cleaning entities.

Alta Communications, Boston, is a private equity fund formed to focus on media and telecommunications. A backer of Nautic Partners, it has $1.5 billion in funds under management.

What’s ahead for Klein?  “My preference was to take less of a day-to-day role with the company,” Klein said. “It’s been a fun and challenging seven years,” he said.

Klein said he plans to take some time off but did not rule out either building or buying another company in the future. He said he may also consider teaching or other pursuits. “I think I may have a book in me,” he said.

Reach Jeffrey Klein at (818) 734-1520 ext. 109 or jklein@101com.com; Michael Joe at (401) 278-6770 or mjoe@nauticpartners.com.