Firstly, KKR bought Internet Brands, the new owner of Martindale Hubbell and Lawyers.Com
Now, ALM Media, which publishes American Lawyer, The National Law Journal, and a host of other legal titles, has been acquired by Wasserstein & Company – its former owners.
I didn’t see this coming.
It was well known that ALM’s current owners, Apax Partners and the Royal Bank of Scotland, were looking to sell, but I’m not sure many predicted that Wasserstein would return.
In a fascinating tale of corporate musical chairs, ALM Media is now back in the hands of the guy who created it.
Not literally, as Bruce Wasserstein (pictured) died in 2009, but his business interests under the auspices of his Wasserstein & Company investment vehicle have welcomed their old legal titles back into the fold.
The New York Times and other sources reported that the purchase price was $417 million, which represents something of a discount on the $630 million paid for the company in 2007.
Deal counsel: Jones Day acted for Wasserstein, Simpson Thacher for ALM and Apax, and DLA Piper advised RBS.
A quick recap on ALM’s eventful corporate history.
The American Lawyer, the founding title, was launched by Steven Brill in 1979.
In 1998, First Boston investment banker Bruce Wasserstein acquired The American Lawyer, which had earlier been sold by Brill to Time Warner.
Wasserstein set about enlarging the media group and added various legal titles through acquisitions, such as the National Law Journal.
American Lawyer Media formally changed its name to ALM in January 2005.
Wasserstein secured a good price for ALM after selling to Incisive Media – a UK-based business media company owned by private equity firm Apax – for $630 million in July 2007.
Incisive, which publishes more than 100 titles, such as Legal Week, Investment Week, and the leading accountancy title, Accountancy Age, had itself been acquired by Apax in 2006 – a year before the ALM deal.
But having bought ALM at the top of the market, the post-crisis advertising downturn hit Incisive hard and it breached its lending covenants in 2008 as debt grew to nine times earnings.
As a result, a restructuring followed in 2009 which enabled Apax to take full control of Incisive’s US-based ALM titles and legal journals, while the UK part of the business remained in the control of its lenders, including RBS.
Sky reported in February 2014 that Incisive underwent a further financial restructuring to work down its £100 million debt.
Elsewhere, M&A activity in the legal media and directories world has been high in the last few years.
Some of the notable deals:
- Thomson Reuters acquired Super Lawyers in 2010
- Bloomberg bought BNA for $1 billion in 2011
- LexisNexis, owned by Reed Elsevier, acquired Law360 in 2012
- Thomson Reuters bought Practical Law Company for £200 to £300 million in January 2013
- Financial Times owner Pearson sold Mergermarket to private equity group BC Partners for $624 million in November 2013
- KKR Bought Martindale Hubbell and Lawyers.Com owner Internet Brands for $1.1 billion in May 2014