InfoUSA Buys Edith Roman for $12 Million

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With last week's acquisition by Omaha, NE-based infoUSA, Edith Roman Associates Inc. joined Walter Karl as part of the data giant's list operation, though the company's founder said becoming the largest brokerage/management firm in the business is not his objective.


"We're not necessarily looking to be the biggest," infoUSA chairman/CEO Vin Gupta said, "probably just in the top two or three."


Gupta said infoUSA paid about $12 million for Edith Roman, which had revenue last year of $14 million to $15 million. Since most list companies are privately held, there is no way to know which is the largest. Still, Gupta said he is always open to new acquisitions.


Meanwhile, Edith Roman, the woman who founded her namesake company as a list compiler in 1956, is "thrilled" about the sale.


"This guarantees immortality for her company," said Roman's son and current CEO of Edith Roman, Stevan Roberts, of his mother's reaction to the sale. "This is a great moment for a woman who pioneered a business to become a part of one of the largest companies in the business."


Roman, 73, is retired and living in Florida. Before the sale, the company was owned by Roberts and another son, Wayne, both of whom will stay on after the acquisition.


Size issues aside, the key aspect of the purchase of Edith Roman is what it means for that company as well as Walter Karl in terms of list brokerage and management and e-mail marketing, especially in the business-to-business realm, according to Ed Mallin, president of Walter Karl, who will oversee both firms.


"Edith Roman is very strong in the business-to-business publishing area, and we are strong in business-to-business cataloging," Mallin said.


Another indication of infoUSA's penchant for BTB data was the completion last week of a deal to buy business data provider OneSource Information Services Inc., Concord, MA, for $101 million.


The Edith Roman buy adds its list brokerage and management business, ePostDirect e-mail marketing services business and Database Direct data processing division to Walter Karl's existing list business and interactive division, all of which are part of Donnelley Marketing.


"It's bringing together two of the oldest and, I like to think, most prestigious companies in the space -- and with the combined revenues and resources of the two organizations, I believe we will clearly be one of the pre-eminent players," Mallin said.


Walter Karl also was named for its founder and began operating as a list brokerage and management company in 1957. American Business Information, which became infoUSA in July 1998, acquired Walter Karl in February 1998. In May of that year, it bought another list company, JAMI Marketing Services Inc., and merged it with Walter Karl.


Mallin said Walter Karl and Edith Roman will keep their separate identities and offices but will focus on cross-selling and other synergies. Both companies will operate from the same office building in Pearl River, NY.


One particular area of collaboration between Walter Karl and Edith Roman will be on the Roman Alliance Database of 50 million business executives and professionals, which Edith Roman launched this year.


Stevan Roberts said the sale of his company would only benefit it and its clients.


"Coupled with the resources and the services available from infoUSA, Donnelley Marketing and Walter Karl, it's going to allow us to provide our customers with a level of service and technology that brings us to a new level," he said.


Despite expressing some surprise at the sale of Edith Roman, list professionals said the acquisition wouldn't change much in the business.


"I don't see a huge impact on the industry, but I think that Edith Roman will have more resources behind them and infoUSA will have a good strong company in its fold," said David W. Florence, founder/chairman of Direct Media Inc., Greenwich, CT. "In the last eight or 10 years, I think Edith Roman has grown a lot and become a major player in the BTB field."


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