VS&A sells energy publisher

The management buyout of Hart Publications makes for yet another specialty publisher deal by a private equity firm as of late.

VS&A Communications, the private equity arm of media merchant bank Veronis Suhler Stevenson, announced the sale of energy publisher Hart Publications in a management buyout backed by a Denver-based energy investment group led by Wiegers Capital Management and Compass Advisers.


Terms of the deal were not disclosed. JP Morgan Chase provided debt financing for the transaction.


The new entity is being renamed Hart Energy Publishing.


VS&A originally acquired the publisher with its Fund II and Fund III when the firm purchased Phillips Business Information, a trade publishing service, from its parent company in October 2000. Hart, a Phillips division at the time, was integrated with Chemical Week Associates, a VS&A portfolio holding. News reports at the time pegged the purchase price between $100 million and $200 million.


According to VS&A managing director Hal Greenberg, Hart’s sale is one of the last divestures from the firm’s Fund II, which closed in 1996. Last month, the firm floated Centaur Communications, another Fund II holding, on the London Stock Exchange.


“We bought Hart in the fall of 2000 at the height of B2B industry,” Greenberg said. “The company has grown a little bit, which is a good thing in the B2B market, where most companies have shrunk between one-third and a half. We’ve been able to maintain and grow, partially as a function of the served market Hart is in – oil and gas.”


Specialty publishers are a sought-after commodity for private equity investors. Just in October, Spiral Capital Partners bought The National Underwriter Company, which publishes newsmagazines for the insurance industry. In August, CSFB Private Equity acquired the healthcare industry magazine and custom project service division of The Thomson Corporation for $135 million.


Veronis Suhler Stevenson targets investments in media, communications and information sectors. VS&A Communications Partners III is the bank’s third private equity fund, capitalized at $1 billion. The firm most recently acquired independent yellow page publisher User-Friendly Phone Book in November.