Direct Media Nears Agreement to Split in Half

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The leadership of the business-to-business arm of Direct Media, Greenwich, CT, this week was on the verge of completing a transaction to buy that half of the mailing list company from Acxiom Corp., Conway, AR. Few details about the terms of the negotiations were available, but Dave Florence, founder and chairman of Direct Media, said last week that he thought an agreement was "getting very, very close."


Florence said it appeared likely that the consumer division, which accounts for about half of DMI's business, would remain with Acxiom as a wholly owned subsidiary of the data-services giant, at least for now.


"What we're trying to do with the consumer group is get things settled under a re-organization and then start negotiations to buy it," Florence said. "That would be a longer-term thing, maybe over the next few years."


Longtime list industry veteran Max Bartko probably would remain with Acxiom to manage the consumer division, Florence said. Although the exact structure of the consumer division had not been finalized, Florence said he expected that the group would not be under pressure to produce the 25 percent annual growth that Acxiom had expected of Direct Media since it acquired the company in 1996.


Acxiom declined to comment on the negotiations, and senior management at the business-to-business division did not return phone calls seeking comment.


Florence said that Acxiom probably would continue to provide data services for the business group as part of the transaction. "That's a key part of the deal," he said.


He said he did not know how large a stake, if any, Acxiom would retain in the newly formed company, but he said he himself would not have an equity interest in the business-to-business arm of the company.


A previous agreement for American List Counsel Inc., Princeton, NJ, to acquire Direct Media expired in July, after the leaders of the business group said they would leave if such a deal transpired.


Direct Media's diminished Walnut Creek, CA, office, which provides list management for hi-tech companies, would probably become part of the business group, he said. The list brokers and some support personnel that had worked in that office recently left to join list firm Paradysz Matea, which is based in New York.


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