ABI to Change Name; 2nd Top Exec Leaves

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American Business Information (ABI) is reorganizing for the future with a new name and management structure set to go into effect Aug. 1.


ABI, Omaha, NE, will officially change its name to InfoUSA and stock ticker symbol to IUSAA and IUSAB. The change reflects the company's transition from a purely business compiler into both a business and consumer information provider and data processor. The expansion into consumer data started with the purchase of Database America in 1997 and has continued with the recent acquisitions of list companies Walter Karl Inc. and JAMI Marketing.


"InfoUSA is indicative of what we're all about," ABI chairman and founder Vin Gupta said last week. "We want to build the consumer database as deep as the business database. The eventual goal is to combine and link the business and consumer databases together."


Next month's name change also will clear up the confusion with other companies that go by the abbreviation ABI, among them American Bankers Insurance, Miami.


Gupta will take back the title of CEO after the resignation of Scott Dahnke from that position Aug. 1, but the day-to-day operations formerly handled by Dahnke will be shared by four executives: CFO Steven Purcell, large business group president Al Ambrosino, small business group president William Chasse and data compilation and information systems group president Monica Messer.


"My role really doesn't change that much,'' Gupta said. "The whole team has been here for a long time, and I have no need to bring in anybody or promote anybody."


That structure will allow Gupta to continue to investigate acquisition opportunities of database, data processing and established list companies that present good cross-selling opportunities for ABI's database services. Like it did in a failed attempt to buy Metromail earlier this year, ABI will rely on debt financing to fuel future purchases. The company recently issued $115 million in debt, $35 million of which is available for acquisitions.


How long Gupta will remain in charge is uncertain. A contributor to the Democratic Party, he has been linked to several positions in the federal government this year.


"Whether his long-term interest is to stay or leave will influence how [ABI] is managed and what direction it takes,'' said Joel Lustig, vice president and analyst at Moody's Investors Service. "It's hard to know what his true intentions are. It's not inconceivable that in six months or a year, some new plans and management team will be announced.''


Dahnke, whose resignation announcement July 6 came a week after Jon Wellman's departure as COO, will take a senior-level position with the leveraged buyout firm AEA Investors, New York. The move wasn't totally unexpected by Gupta, who said Dahnke and his wife never were comfortable in Omaha since he became CEO in October. Dahnke previously had been a partner with consultant McKinsey & Co., Chicago.


Ambrosino, president of Database America, will oversee East Coast operations for the company at its new facility in Montebello, NY, which is scheduled to open next year. The new facility will serve as headquarters for Database America, JAMI and most of Walter Karl. ABI also is expanding its corporate headquarters in Omaha to consolidate all compilation operations at one site.
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