£80m Centaur Media in takeover play as former boss Geoff Wilmot readies bid

Centaur Media, publisher of Marketing Week and the Lawyer among a (declining) number of others is under siege from former CEO Geoff Wilmot (left) who departed the publisher, along with business division boss Tim Potter, last year.

Centaur, along with most other business to business publishers, has been in gradual decline for years as digital has knocked a big hole in its print advertising revenues. Last year the company made a profit of just £8.6m (not such a bad achievement considering some of its problems), barely more than Marketing Week used to make on its own 20 years ago.

The company compounded its problems by forking out £50m for digital business Econsultancy, which then hit choppy water in its overseas operations.

Now that Wilmot has notified his intention to bid, which he has to do by October 22, other publishers and possibly private equity operations will also be poring over Centaur. The company’s shares have recovered strongly in recent months giving it a current value of just over £80m, so a successful bid would probably need to be around the £100m level.

Is it worth it? The company has undeniably strong B2B brands (it also owns Creative Review, Money Marketing and The Engineer) but still hasn’t cracked how to turn them into money in the digital age. But maybe someone with deeper pockets could do. Econsultancy is still with us, along with some other smaller information businesses, and it has a medium-sized exhibitions division.

And the UK economy, finally, looks as though it’s beginning to recover. So Wilmot’s bid is timely (although the timing probably has more to do with his severance terms). But other likely buyers will have noticed that too.

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