With medical publishing, Will Passano has been on both sides of the desk – the acquirers and the acquired. A fourth generation publisher, he had the experience of working in his family’s Baltimore firm after it had been sold. Now he is at Ascend Media, on the buyer’s side. After Ascend Media bought Medical World Communications on Forsgate Drive in Jamesburg, Passano came in as president last summer.
On July 13 Passano will expand Ascend Media’s healthcare division from Forsgate Drive to 18,800 square feet at 103 College Road East. With about 100 full-time equivalent employees, Ascend has medical and niche publications for managed care, dental, pharmaceutical, and general physician issues.
A major reason for the move was to be more accessible to the New York rail link, "to be where a lot of our customers are, the agencies are, and for the employment opportunities," says Passano. He cites his new neighbors, Covance, Dow Jones, and Bristol-Myers Squibb, as having similar talent needs.
"The initial thought was to go to Bridgewater because it because it was closer to Newark Airport." says Passano. "To their credit, the executives in Kansas City `listened,’ and agreed to move to Princeton. Princeton has much more cachet." Only half in jest, he says, "We’re smarter just by being there."
Another choice would have been Alexander Road because it is close to the train station, but he admits, "we had a false start that did not work out." Anyway employees who live in Jamesburg, he says, will find it easier to get to College Road than to Alexander Road, which will soon have to deal with bridge construction. "This is the right size for us, and in a year a two we may need more space," he says. Doug Petrozzini of Grubb & Ellis represented Ascend Media in the negotiations with Vince Marano and Tom Stange of National Business Parks.
What is now known as the healthcare division of Ascend Media has its roots in a magazine that was founded at the turn of the century. Jack Hennessy, a second generation medical publisher, reconstituted the Princeton business as Medical World Communications in 1993 and set out to rapidly acquire other firms. In 2001 he reported revenues of $100 million.
Then the federal government, tipped off by a whistleblowing former employee, accused Hennessy of failing to pay $2 million in postage by fraudulently asserting, over a six-year period, that more than half of the recipients of 11 magazines had requested to receive the magazine. (To qualify for low bulk postal rates, a majority of a magazine’s recipients need to certify that they want to receive the publication.) Hennessy said that rapid growth, not fraud, was responsible for any mistakes, but in 2002 he settled the charges for $3.7 million. In 2003 he turned day-to-day management of the Jamesburg operations over to Dan Perkins, and he sold the firm in January, 2005.
The buyer, Ascend Media, was founded by three former executives at Kansas-based Primedia, the large business-to-business publishing firm that covers a dozen different industries. Having obtained funding from two private equity firms, Verona Shuler Stevenson and JP Morgan, these investors are creating a vertically integrated platform that targets just a few industries. Their first purchase was an event planning firm, and when they bought Medical World Communications (MWC), it came with the Princeton area office plus a handful of other businesses.
Now Ascend Media has $132 million in annual revenues. Nearly 70 percent of that ($90 million) comes from medical/healthcare businesses, including the Princeton office, a continuing medical education division (Synermed) in Califon, the event media business (based in Overland, Kansas), MWC’s former medical marketing agency (Practice Builders, based in California) and MWC’s allied healthcare publications, published in Los Angeles. Another former MWC company that joined Ascend Media is Chicago-based Stagnito Publications, which covers the food and beverage and packaging industries. It also has a dozen casino and gaming publications.
Medical publishing business is certainly not new to Will Passano – he grew up in the family business, Baltimore-based Williams & Wilkins – but after it was sold he earned his stripes on his own. A graduate of Roanoke College, Class of 1978, he has a master’s of science degree from Columbia. Both he and his wife, Terry (a former regional manager with retailer Ellen Tracy) are sailing enthusiasts. They have a home at Gibson Island, Maryland, but they live in Hopewell with their three daughters, who attend Stuart Country Day School.
Passano worked in Baltimore for 13 years, starting at Williams & Wilkins and then for the new owners, Wolters Kluwer. His next job was at Miller Freeman in New York City, followed by a position as CEO at SCP Communications, also in Manhattan. Most recently, he was president of the medical education group of Jobson Publishing, a medical publishing firm, based in Bloomfield, New Jersey.
He is hiring managing editors and copy editors. Medical experience is not required. "Good editors can learn the terminology on the job. One of the main reasons to be in the Route 1 corridor is to get good editorial and publishing staff. We already have the resident experts, sales, and senior management."
Indeed, the sales team was among his first priorities: "We have stabilized the sales force and given them tools to work with – an appropriate commission plan."
In particular, he had to rebuild the dental sales force, because that group left, following former president Dan Perkins, to start another publication, Inside Dentistry (see accompanying story).
In response, Passano hired Primedia executive Dave Branch to be group publisher for the four dental magazines. Rather than using free articles on new products, he switched to more journalistic articles and claims that revenue increased 100 percent in the most recent issue. "It’s a crowded market with a lot of small manufacturers making emotional purchasing decisions, rather than by using facts and figures," says Passano.
Ascend also invested in technology across the board, including in basic infrastructure. "I don’t want to say the E-platform was marginal, but it was barely adequate," says Passano. "We have a lot of web initiatives under way." For instance, he has just launched a bi-weekly E-mail newsletter, epharmacy times, for 90,000 pharmacists, representing more than half of the 170,000 print circulation. It provides updates to the magazine and triggers dialogue. Says Passano: "We cover the universe."
Ascend Media, 103 College Road, Third Floor, Princeton 08540; 732-656-0200; fax, 732-656-0818 (new numbers, 609-524-9500; fax, 609-524-9658). Will Passano, president of healthcare division. Home page: www.ascendmedia.com
Nearly 50 Princeton-area companies operate in the communications area for pharmaceuticals, biotech, and medical device fields, and they generate more than 900 jobs. A handful of these companies publish journals for various health professions. In addition to Ascend Media and Aegis Communications, they include:
Intellisphere, 666 Plainsboro Road, Suite 308, Plainsboro 08536; 609-716-7777; fax, 609-716-4747. Michael Hennessy, CEO. Home page: www.mdng.com
The Hennessy name is synonymous with medical publishing in New Jersey. Like his brothers and father before him, Mike Hennessy has built up several companies and successful journals. (Jack Hennessy Jr. started Medical World Communications, now Ascend Media, and another brother, Jeff, has an Eatontown-based firm, Princeton Media Associates, www.princetoncme.com).
Nearly two decades ago Michael Hennessy started the clinical journals Clinical Geriatrics and Annals of Long-Term Care through his company MultiMedia Health Care, since sold to HMP Communications.
Hennessy had the foresight to realize how the Internet and technology would revolutionize medicine, and in 1999 he founded MD Net Guide, the flagship publication of his current company, Intellisphere LLC. MD Net Guide chronicles the ways in which technology is advancing the practice of medicine, establishing its credentials as a reliable guide to high-quality online information and resources for eight different specialties. The MD Net Guide brand reaches an audience of more than 250,000 physician readers, and is supplemented by an array of E-mail newsletters, digital versions of the print magazines, a Web portal, and custom projects.
Intellisphere also developed Scinexa LLC, an independent, autonomous, medical education group.
The company has secured the capital to expand its business and reach new markets, such publishing in fields other than healthcare and/or establishing new types of business, such as market research.
HMP Communications, 4365 Route 1 South, Suite 250, Princeton 08540; 609-452-9200; fax, 609-452-8249. Peter Norris, CEO. www.hmpcommunications.com
HMP is a medical communications firm that is based in Malvern, Pennsylvania, and the Route 1 South satellite office publishes two journals, Annals of Long Term Care and Clinical Geriatrics.
These two long-term care journals used to belong to Michael Hennessy’s Multimedia Healthcare Freedom. They were taken over by HMP in August, 2004.
HMP is owned by a New York City-based venture capital group, BG Media. Overall, HMP owns 12 magazines – including those on dermatology, wound care, podiatry, and vascular surgery – with a circulation of about 350,000 readers.
Margie Schulz is editorial director of the 10-person staff on Route 1, and she edits the Annals of Long Term Care, which has 55,000 readers. She grew up in Teaneck, the daughter of a publishing executive and an artist, and worked for Prentice-Hall during the summers and after graduating from Marietta College in Ohio, moving to the medical publishing field several years ago. Meredith Edwards edits Clinical Geriatrics, which has 85,000 readers.
Excerpta Medica, 685 Route 202/206, Bridgewater 08807; 908-547-2100; fax, 908-547-2200. Gerard Stoia, general manager. Home page: www.excerptamedica.com
A year ago the 70-person firm moved to Bridgewater from Belle Mead, where its rented space was technologically outdated. A division of Reed Elsevier, it publishes four peer-reviewed medical journals and also provides medical education, strategic publication planning, and marketing-related programs for the health care industry.
Among its journals are Clinical Therapeutics, a bimonthly journal with pharmaceutical economics and health policy, and Current Therapeutic Research, American Journal of Geriatric Pharmaco Therapy, Gender Medicine.
Gerard Stoia, president of the Excerpta Medica office in Bridgewater, is also in charge of the office for global business in Amsterdam. Joan Parker is senior vice president of publications.
Also in this building, but in a self-contained business not connected to Excerpta Medica, is the Office of Continuing Medical Education. Excerpta Medica devises the programs, and the CME office is the licensed accreditor that awards credits for the programs. Thanks to recent regulations and guidelines, the two parts of the business need to be separate.
Elsevier also does strategic publication planning for pharmaceuticals and biotechs.
Reed Elsevier is a giant company, based in London and Amsterdam. The health sciences division, to which Excerpta Medica reports, is in Philadelphia. The division also includes the International Medical News Group (IMNG) in Morristown, New Jersey, and the FDC Reports, based in Maryland.
Young Medical Communications Group Inc., 109 South Main Street, Cranbury 08512; 609-371-5085; fax, 609-371-5086. George R. Young. www.webnp.net
The four-person office publishes the American Journal for Nurse Practitioners, Nurse Practitioner World News, Clinical Challenges to Women’s Health, and Women’s Healthcare.