Wine Communications Group (WCG) — the parent company of Wine Business Monthly (WBM), and a growing data and trade show conglomerate — is in talks to sell the equity stake owned by the estate of the late Frank LaHaye who passed away April 21, 2019.
Neither LaHaye’s official obituary nor a newspaper article noting his death, mentioned his substantial ownership in WCG. Unconfirmed estimates put LaHaye’s share percentage at 25%. No estimated value has been disclosed.
A source closely associated with WCG and the asset involved, told Wine Industry Insight that LaHaye’s estate is eager to sell his share and has been shopping it since shortly after his death.
Hugh Tietjen, Chairman of WCG told Wine Industry Insight that “We are in ongoing contact with Frank’s estate. We are not aware of any outside activity relative to purchase of his stock.”
Wine Industry Insight also contacted SMI by email mid-day Wednesday but has not yet had a reply. Any comments, additions or corrections will be added prominently to this article if received.
Acquisitions grow as prize publication circulation wanes
WCG has been aggressively acquiring other industry-related companies even as its most visible asset — WBM — has seen its paid/requested circulation stagnate to approximately 6,000.
As a result, WBM dropped its ad-agency respected BPA circulation audit and now relies on a more limited and less transparent U.S. Postal Service Second Class mailing permit.
Further, that source indicated that current members of WCG’s ownership have not liked the prospective buyers so far.
Prominent Sonoma media investors may be hottest prospect
Currently, the most serious buying prospect could be Sonoma Media Investments (SMI).
SMI’s Management Team is led by an experienced trio of executives with backgrounds in politics, media, and real estate. The company’s current portfolio owns a large proportion of major North Bay publications including The Press-Democrat, North Bay Business Journal, Sonoma Magazine, Spirited and others.
WCG Value Unknown
WCG’s asset value has not been disclosed. However, it did place #17 in the Wine Executive News Wine Tech Funding Series in 2018.
That 2018 article was a partial assessment and could confirm only one investment: $7 million from cork and barrel giant OENEO.
Online financial data site Owler estimated that, in 2017, WCG had reveniew of $18.8 million. That number has not been independently confirmed.
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