Shake-Up in Store for Legal Media
As I reported yesterday at my LawSites blog, rumors percolating for several months proved true yesterday when its owners announced that legal-media giant ALM is for sale. The announcement said:
"Wasserstein & Co., LP today announced that it has retained Credit Suisse as its exclusive financial advisor to assist it in exploring various strategic alternatives for its investment in ALM, including the possible sale of the company. ALM, a leading media company serving legal and business professionals, was formed in 1997 by U.S. Equity Partners, L.P., a private equity fund sponsored by Wasserstein & Co., LP.
"The Company advised that there can be no assurances that this process will result in any specific transactions. The Company does not intend to disclose developments regarding its exploration of strategic alternatives unless and until its Board of Directors approve a definitive transaction."
Wasserstein, headed by 59-year-old Bruce Wasserstein, chairman of Lazard Ltd., formed ALM through a series of acquisitions that began in 1997 with the purchase of American Lawyer Group, publisher of The American Lawyer magazine. Soon after, it purchased the New York company Law Journal Publishing, publisher of the National Law Journal and New York Law Journal, and then the Philadelphia company Legal Communications Ltd., publisher of The Legal Intelligencer and other Pennsylvania newspapers. Other, smaller acquisitions followed, along with the launch of Law.com, the host of this blog. Today, the company publishes 34 national and regional magazines and newspapers along with a host of books, newsletters and related products, and produces an array of legal conferences, including the LegalTech shows. Crain's New York Business puts the company's value at close to $1 billion.
Its range and reach makes ALM the most significant legal journalism company in the nation. (Although I am a former ALM employee and still receive income from it, I say that as a fact, not an opinion.) That means that whoever ends up as its owner is sure to have a major impact on the future of legal media -- for better or worse. So who might that be?
Well, it could be Wasserstein, because there could be no sale at all. That is what the announcement says, and it would not be the first time Wasserstein considered but decided against selling the company.
Who else? lexBlog's Kevin O'Keefe predicts buyers will be slow to come forward, suggesting that ALM's greatest value is its talent, which others could hire away for far less than it would cost to buy the whole kit and caboodle. But Bloomberg News cites observers who say the market for publishing companies such as ALM is strong. As Bloomberg notes, the two most obvious contenders are Reed Elsevier, owner of LexisNexis, and Thomson Corp., owner of Westlaw and FindLaw. My bet is that mainstream media companies will also have an interest.
However this plays out -- even if ALM's ownership remains unchanged -- the outcome is likely the chart the course of legal journalism for years to come.
Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on March 22, 2007 at 05:16 PM | Permalink
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