UPDATE: MSGi Sells WiredEmpire, Seeks Financial Advice

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Three days after Marketing Services Group Inc., New York, sold subsidiary e-mail technology firm WiredEmpire to Naviant Marketing Solutions Inc. earlier this month, it announced it is reviewing its strategic options with financial adviser Goldman Sachs in an attempt to maximize shareholder value.


"Our stock is at a low partially because of our association with the Internet side of the business," Jeremy Barbera, chairman/CEO of MSGi, said of the firm's financial situation. "We've been punished as if we're a dot-com company, but we're not; we're a direct marketing company."


Possible alternatives include the sale of the firm or an investment by a partner of MSGi, Barbera said.


Although nothing is definite, he said the firm is weighing all options.


"We're looking to continue to build this enterprise, but we can't necessarily do it, given our current stock price," Barbera said.


In an earlier effort to disassociate itself from the dot-com downturn, MSGi closed subsidiary WiredEmpire in September. With prospects for WiredEmpire's profitability looking weak, MSGi intended to sell its assets.


Although the terms of the sale were not disclosed, Naviant Marketing Solutions Inc., a database marketing firm based in Newtown Square, PA, acquired WiredEmpire and has retained several of the firm's clients.


In addition, 14 members of the WiredEmpire's technology team will join Naviant in its Boston-area office this month, said Raymond T. Butkus, president and chief operating officer of Naviant.


Before the acquisition, Naviant did not have e-mail serving capabilities, Butkus said. Now that it does, Naviant is using the WiredEmpire technology to manage the e-mail campaigns of its clients but will not use it for e-mail acquisition purposes.


"Naviant assists marketers who want to reach the Web-connected consumer online and offline," Butkus said. "We saw that WiredEmpire's products would be a nice complement to our e-mail and precision marketing capabilities."


Both Barbera and Butkus said there is potential for MSGi and Naviant to work together in the future.


Meanwhile, MSGi is still working toward the integration of its Philadelphia and Boston operations with its New York office.


"The point is to have one fully integrated company known as MSGi Direct," Barbera said.


He expects the companies to be operating as one cohesive unit by May.


In November, MSGi cut back its New York staff in a move it claimed would eliminate redundancies within the organization due to the consolidation of three of its subsidiary companies -- Metro Direct, Stevens-Knox & Associates and The Coolidge Co.


Even so, Barbera said the company plans to keep all current employees.
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