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Publisher Naylor Finds U.S. Buyers

Winnipeg Free Press, 08.6.05
Martin Cash

The Winnipeg company that grew into one of the largest association publication businesses in North America has been sold to two U.S. private equity firms.

Naylor Publications has been a mainstay in Winnipeg's publishing industry since founder Brent Naylor started the company in 1969, "armed with little more than a roll of dimes, a telephone booth and a dream," according to the company's website.

Yesterday, Naylor announced it has been acquired by Clarity Partners, L.P. and ZelnickMedia Corp.

Naylor has more than 400 employees, including about 200 in Winnipeg, and has more than 400 trade and professional association clients, publishing more than 800 different association directories and publication titles every year.

Clarity, based in Beverly Hills, Calif., is the majority owner in the deal, but Jim Friedlich, a partner in New York-based Zelnick, will become chairman of the board of Naylor. Terms of the deal were not released.

"This deal means Naylor will continue to provide more client benefits as the premier provider of one-stop shopping association image building products and services," said Rebecca Wright, Naylor's director of human resources and employee development at the company's Gainesville, Fla., offices.

She said Naylor will continue on as a stand-alone company publishing directories and providing other association services to the likes of the Manitoba Building & Construction Trades Council, Manitoba Home Builders Association, American Society of Interior Designers and American Football Coaches Association.

"This announcement follows a long and thoughtful sale process," said Brent Naylor in a statement. "We chose the Zelnick-Clarity team because of the breadth of their media industry experience and the depth and credibility of their commitment to building aggressively upon the foundation we have established."

Naylor moved to Gainesville, Fla., in 1994 and established a modern sales and marketing operation there, maintaining the company's production, printing, binding and distribution operations in Winnipeg, growing the company by 500 per cent since then.

In an e-mail response to questions, Friedlich said that ZelnickMedia sees its investment in Naylor as a long-term commitment and that there is no intention to alter the company's configuration.

"We are strongly and fully committed to Winnipeg," Friedlich said. "We are highly impressed by the team there. Winnipeg is at the heart and soul of Naylor. We foresee no major changes. We like the business a great deal and bought to grow it, not to alter it."

Over the last few years the company has acquired a new five-color Heidelberg press at its 80,000-square-foot Winnipeg plant on Sutherland Avenue where Naylor does all its printing. It also recently invested in a $1.2 million distribution system with enhanced mailing efficiency.

A year ago it formally opened a $9 million expansion to its 57,000 square foot Gainesville facility where about 150 company employees are based. Naylor also has sales offices in Toronto, Baltimore and Sacremento.

Both Zelnick and Clarity have other investments in what might be considered digital media companies, but Friedlich and Naylor's Wright said that the print services that Naylor Publications provide are not likely to become extinct anytime soon.

"Naylor produces both print and online directories for its association partners," Friedlich said. "Both are widely used. The print component of our business has a vital future for as long as the eye can see."

Wright said, "Print is not going away. It is handy to tuck a membership directory into your briefcase if you are making a sales call. One of the key features of our publications is when lobbying legislators is far more impressive to leave a beautiful publication on their desk than to tell them to look up the website."

Wright added that Naylor does business with about 400 associations, but there are 200,000 in North America so there is plenty of opportunity for growth.