February 1, 2000

A Whole New Ball Game

In the can-you-top-this category: What did we do on our Christmas vacation? Not much, just sold the magazine. Or more accurately, Dow Jones sold the magazine. The buyer: Wicks Business Information, LLC, which probably doesn't mean any more to you than it did to me, that is, not very much. But the more I learned about Wicks the better I felt. In fact, these days, I'm downright excited about the future of Investment Advisor. And surprisingly, at least to me, the process to get here was relatively quick and about as painless as these things can be.

As you might imagine, there were quite a few folks interested in our little company. The investment bankers, Jordan Edmiston, told us they received some 17 initial bids. They narrowed it down to the top seven, and then the fun began; we made what turned out to be three-hour presentations to each of them.

But in addition to getting really tired of listening to each other and indeed our own pitches, we got to hear what other publishing companies were up to, what they thought about our business and where they would take it. It was an impressive group of bidders, and a real education for me. But one firm stood out from the others, which is why I'm so optimistic today.

Wicks Business Information is an affiliate of The Wicks Group of Companies, LLC, a New York-based investment firm specializing in communications, information, and media businesses. So they ought to know something about the business we're in. But then, you could say that about all the bidders. I really didn't start getting interested in Wicks until President Doug Manoni, and Senior Vice President and Group Publisher Maile Hulihan, explained their strategy: Large publishing companies have a tendency to ignore smaller publications, to undercapitalize them, undermanage them, and overlook the opportunities they offer. Hmmm.

Wicks, then, intends to identify these opportunities, and provide the financing and support required to meet the challenges and opportunities of delivering information to niches like, well, like the financial planning community. Really, hmmm. At this point, they were starting to sound pretty good. And over the next month or so, leading up to their acquisition of what's now Investment Advisor Group, on January 14, our conversations only got better.

Wicks realized that the core of our business was serving financial planners, and wanted to refocus us solely in that direction. Yet they also want us to expand, by exploring the various channels through which we can provide information to professional financial planners, including print, conferences, the Internet, and strategic alliances. In short, they want to do all the things we've wanted to do for years, but couldn't get the backing for. And in the interests of full disclosure, I suppose I should point out that because we're now focused on the planning community, they wanted me to lead the charge.

Will we miss Dow Jones? We'll certainly miss the folks we've worked with, who have done their best by us amid vast corporate turmoil. And we'll probably miss the Dow Jones on our business cards and our resumes. But if Wicks' involvement means that we'll be able to give you better information in ways that make it easier and more useful to you, then as we say in the investment business: What's the downside?

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