Cygnus Business Media puts its Public Safety Group up for auction, joining the Heavy Construction Group on the block

The divestitures at Cygnus Business Media continue with the announcement that they are putting up its Public Safety Group on the blocks. The sale will be handled by Corporate Solutions, LLC, the same M&A firm that is also representing Cygnus in its efforts to sell of the Heavy Construction Group, and last year help sell the Ad group to American Farm Bureau Federation.

Firehouse-cover-2012The Public Safety Group includes Firehouse and LET (Law Enforcement Technology) magazines, along with supporting trade shows.

“Public Safety is an incredibly successful portion of the company that has had a lot of interest from the outside for many years,” said Cygnus CEO John French. “The acquisition of the Public Safety Group offers a unique opportunity to take full advantage of improving market conditions by leveraging improvements made during the economic downturn.”

Cygnus’s roots go all the way back to 1937, but its real story starts with Johnson Hill Press, established in 1957 in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. In 1997, during the height of B2B media industry growth, Cygnus Business Information was established with the help of the investment firm Kelso & Co. The new entity was quickly sold to Paul Mackler and ABRY Partners in 1999 and a roll-up program was initiated – the common strategy of the time. The common result, too, was the massive debt that was accumulated and the company was handed over to its creditor, GE Capital. Eventually the company filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in order to reduce the company’s debt and John French, the former CEO of Penton Media, was brought in.

Firehouse-iPadThe question many may have is who is still in B2B that may buy the titles? Reed Elsevier divested itself of most of its US holdings in 2009, and because of the lack of interested buyers had to shutter many of the titles (though many were eventually picked up for their assets by their former publishers). Intertec, a big player at one time, became Primedia, and then the B2B side was sold to the PE firm Wasserstein when renamed Prism Business Information. That firm was then merged with Penton Media by Wasserstein.

Both the Heavy Construction Group and the Public Safety Group would have been eagerly snapped up a decade ago. For the most part, Cygnus has maintained their magazine titles. Firehouse, for instance, still has a BPA audit that shows the magazine with just over 77K in circulation, the same level it has had for many years, and still ahead of its rival magazines. The group has also been one to experiment with native tablet editions, releasing iPad apps for Firehouse, EMS World, LET and Law Enforcement Product News, as well as universal apps for the trade shows.

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