Magazine owners use their initiative to make £16m

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The Independent Online

The owners of a private equity magazines firm have cashed in £16m after selling their company to Incisive Media, the acquisitive-listed business publishing group.

The owners of a private equity magazines firm have cashed in £16m after selling their company to Incisive Media, the acquisitive-listed business publishing group.

Antonia Millen and Ajay Sood, a married couple based in Reigate, Surrey, set up Initiative Europe 15 years ago and turned Unquote, its flagship title, into a significant source of current and historical data on the private equity market. The founders will quit once the deal goes through, leaving a management team to benefit from a further £2m earn-out.

Incisive plans to extend Initiative's portfolio of titles - which include Private Equity Europe and Europe Buyout Review - into exhibitions and conferences, mirroring its own business model. The company already owns Risk magazine, founded by the former Euromoney journalist Peter Field, Investment Week and Your Mortgage.

Tim Weller, the founder and chief executive of Incisive, was recently outbid in the auction to buy Centaur by its then house broker Numis, sparking a major falling-out between the two.

Yesterday's acquisition of Initiative, which made a profit in 2003 of £1.1m, might be seen as a consolation for Mr Weller, who is fast-earning a reputation for making a number of niche publishing entrepreneurs extremely rich. Ms Millen, 49, founded Initiative Europe in 1988 with a staff of four and a co-founder, Simon Thornton. She left an established company that supplied data to the venture capital industry. Yesterday there was radio silence from the founders of Initiative Europe who asked their public relations advisers to field all telephone calls about them. "They're very anti-publicity," a spokesman for Incisive Media said. "They didn't even want to give their names."

Mr Weller cashed in £3.6m by selling shares to Caledonia Investments, the investment trust controlled by the Cayzer shipping dynasty, which is building a stake. Incisive is also issuing £11m of new shares to help pay for Initiative, for which it is paying £16m in cash now, with £2m on top if sales continue to go well. Mr Weller said: "I only took a little over £300,000 out at the float and it is now our 10-year anniversary. I still have £8m-plus in the company, so my balls are still on the line."

Initiative made a profit of £1.6m in 2003 and Mr Weller said that now is the right time to be expanding in private equity. "The sector is rebounding and there are £37bn of unrealised investments across Europe, so there is going to be plenty of deal flow in secondary transactions and straightforward exits."

The acquisition of Initiative is a consolation prize after Incisive was outbid in the auction of Centaur by its then house broker, Numis, sparking a falling out between the two. Caledonia had been planning to back the Centaur acquisition.

The purchase of Mr Weller's stake and smaller shareholdings from four other Incisive directors gives Caledonia 6.5 per cent of the company.

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