M&A: Let’s Make a Deal!

So you’re considering selling your media business. Or maybe buying new media properties. Is it a sure thing that it will be a long, bumpy ride? Are there ways to prepare yourself and your company now that can make a difference?

We consulted Mark Sullivan (former President, Formula4Media) and John McGovern (CEO/Owner, Grimes, McGovern & Assoc.) for some of their insights from their recent sale.

If a niche media company is contemplating a sale, is it realistic for them to expect a smooth transaction?

Mark: “Prepare now, both mentally and practically. Your life will be different in just about every way. In some ways, it will be better. The biggest change is that you’re not the ultimate decision maker any more. Personally, I don’t have an issue with that, but if you’re the type of person who will have trouble giving that up, it will be a major change for you.

Here are 3 steps to take right now that will go a long way toward that goal:

  1.  Plan out what the first 10 days post transaction will be like and what the first 100 days will look like.
  2.  What will need to be done to bring the buyers up to speed and what will you have to communicate to your major customers and stakeholders.
  3.  What employees will go along as part of the deal and how can you plan for that and plan for contingencies. Life will be very different for them, too.”

John: “You have to be ready for an M&A process. It is a pretty intrusive exercise. Picture you are selling your house and the buyers have questions about what is in every drawer in your house and why it is there as opposed to another drawer. It is really important to identify a resource who can play “traffic cop” for the many many questions and clarifications that come up. This person should understand the business and the numbers. If the owner is heavily involved in the business, this person should NOT be the owner. ”

Tips on overcoming negotiation stumbling blocks:

Mark:  I would say if you do a good job preparing and listening to your adviser, your negotiating stance will be strong.”

John: “Your process letter needs to be firm and “speak first” about tricky topics like subscription liability. A successful negotiation requires a lot of planning, laying out all the likely issues and sets of numbers that will come up. Understanding your seller and buyer well and knowing ahead of time what both can live with is an important role of any M&A adviser.”

What’s the one single best piece of advice you’d want to give a niche publisher after the sale is made but before close?

Mark: “We signed and closed on the same day and I’m not sure I’d recommend that to other folks. There are pros and cons to it. I would say be decisive and move forward. There’s no crying in baseball and no shoulda, woulda, coulda in transactions.”

John: “Remember you are not selling the buyer a sponsorship or an ad, you are selling them the business. Focus on the assets, that is what are they actually getting the day after closing. Stay calm. Listen to the message, not the tone. ”

Editor’s note: Mark Sullivan and John McGovern will be leading the session, : M&A “Let’s Make a Deal!”at the 2018 Niche CEO Summit, Dec 4th-5th in Phoenix, AZ.


More about Mark: Mark Sullivan has spent more than 25 years in B2B publishing and events. He is a founder of The Running Event, which was recently sold to Diversified Communications. Prior to The Running Event, he worked for several major publishing companies including Fairchild Publications, a division of Cap Cities/Disney, and VNU. Mark is a journalist by training and while an editor at Women’s Wear Daily won the prestigious Atrium Award for outstanding coverage of the American fashion industry.


More about John: John joined M&A Advisory firm W.B. Grimes in 2011 to run the Global Media & Events Group and acquired that group and the Newspapers Group of W.B. Grimes in Jan 2018, creating Grimes, McGovern & Associates. The Global Media & Events group had excellent growth under John’s tenure, branching out into new regions and more diverse businesses. As the new owner of Grimes, McGovern & Associates, John looks forward to continuing the tradition the Grimes family started of helping small to medium-sized business owners grow their businesses, and exit at the right time at the best price. John is an avid tennis player, foodie and movie buff (especially spy movies).


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