ACP chief executive Paul Dykzeul is a happy man this morning. And rightly so, because one of his dreams came true with the announcement that giant German publisher Bauer had put an offer in for ACP Media.
“I’ve never given up hope that one day we would be owned by a publishing company again,” he says. “It’s overwhelmingly positive. And I’m chuffed. They’ll be hard. All German companies are, but at least they will be investing in the future of the business,” he says.
Since 2007, ACP’ Media’s parent company Nine Entertainment Network has been owned by private equity firm CVC Asia Pacific, and, as Dykzeul says, private equity firms traditionally “use the success of the company to pay debt”. They also aren’t renowned as long term owners.
“There’s been a lot of talk about debt issues. But that relates to the owners, not to the business.”
He uses the analogy that if you buy a house in Paritai Drive and can’t afford to service the mortgage, that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with the house. And he says both ACP and Nine are hugely successful businesses.
He says Bauer has been looking at Australia and New Zealand longingly for a while, as it’s a good magazine market with high levels of readership and literacy. But the opportunity hasn’t presented itself until now.
Dykzeul, who spent a lot of time in Germany earlier in his career and is impressed with the way they do business, says he’s been involved in this deal for a few months and he believes Bauer is “a bloody terrific company”.
“It’s a large family-owned business. And they’re very private. Three of the four daughters are still involved in the business. It’s very successful in the UK, the US and Europe. And it’s a very dedicated magazine and online business … “[German companies] are bloody tough and demanding and they have very high standards and they expect everyone else to adhere to those standards. And that’s why so many of them have been so successful … They’re very passionate about media. It’s what they know and love. And they have a huge international network with eight or nine thousand employees, which will be fantastic for our staff here as it will create career opportunities within the group.”
He says he’s always telling his staff to look for segment gaps in the market but the support to launch magazines to fill those gaps hasn’t been there in recent years. That might change with Bauer, because “they’re prolific launchers of magazines.” He says there are also a lot of titles ACP can look at launching or syndicating in this market.
He says he honestly doesn’t know how much changed hands in the deal and he doesn’t know whether the $500 million figure being bandied about is accurate or not, but he thinks it’s probably “just a guess” given how private the family is.
As for the relationship with MSN, which is owned by Nine, he says like any marriage they’ve had their challenges with each other. But he says it won’t be an instant divorce as they do a terrific job in their area. But not being restricted should help not just ACP, but also the wider industry, as it might allow the country’s biggest magazine publisher to experiment more widely with digital brand extensions.