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Rating:Strategic Insight Is On the Block ... Again Not Rated 0.0 Email Routing List Email & Route  Print Print
Monday, May 05, 2014

Strategic Insight Is On the Block ... Again

Reported by Neil Anderson, Managing Editor

Five years after selling, Strategic Insight may find itself with a new parent soon, again.

The Deal, citing unnamed sources, reports that private equity firm Austin Ventures is selling Asset International, parent of mutual fund industry data giant Strategic Insight, with the help of J.P. Morgan. peHUB also reports on the news, though it names a different banker: Evercore Partners.

Jim Casella, chairman and CEO of Asset International, and Charlie Ruffel, founder and director of Asset International, both declined to comment to MFWire for this article.

The most logical buyer for Asset International, perhaps, could be Joe Mansueto, either through Morningstar itself or through Mansueto's publishing acquirer Mansueto Ventures. Strategic Insight could bolster Morningstar's efforts to get into the institutional data and research business, and writing about retirement plans could mesh with Morningstar's articles for advisors and investors. Morningstar has made moves to sell flow data, like Strategic Insight.

Austin Ventures, through Asset International, first bought Strategic Insight almost five years ago. The Strategic Insight deal after Austin Ventures snapped up Asset International itself (publisher of retirement plan trade publications PlanSponsor and PlanAdviser, as well as Global Custodian) and brought in Casella, armed with a $100-million to $120-million war chest, to lead Asset International.

Also in 2009 Casella bought London-based The Trade. Then in 2011 Asset International bought pieces of Asset International rival FRC, as well as Australia-based Plan For Life. In 2012 Asset International made a 529-related purchase. And last year Asset International bought Investor Economics.

One source tells The Deal that the price tag for AI could reach $150 million or more, on revenues of about $50 million and EBITDA of about $11 million. That puts the price at about three times revenue and 13.63 times EBITDA.

peHUB offers slightly different numbers. The Reuters publication says Austin Ventures wants more than $100 million for Asset International. And peHUB puts Asset International's revenues at $60 million and its EBITDA at $15 million, putting the pricing at 1.7 times revenue and 6.7 times EBITDA. One sources tells the pub that the data side (i.e. Strategic Insight) is worth 13 to 14 times EBITDA, while the publishing side is worth 6 times EBITDA.

Who might buy Asset International, and with it Strategic Insight? The Deal points to Mergermarket, a Peason subsidiary being sold to British private equity shop BC Partners. And peHUB mentions Reed Elsevier (where Casella used to run Reed Business U.S.) and Wolters Kluwer, as well as peHUB's parent, Reuters. On the one hand, Reuters sold Source Media, but on the other hand it owns mutual fund data specialist Lipper.

A host of financial publishing shops could take a look at the deal. Bloomberg, now led again by its founder, could be interested. Dow Jones, part of the New News Corp, has wanted to be in the space forever. Institutional Investor passed on Asset International last time around, and these days their focus has shifted more towards oil and energy publications. Penton Media , backer of WealthManagement.com and Rep. (formerly Registered Rep) might bid. Source Media itself is perpetually on the block. Summit Business Media, backer of AdvisorOne, might submit a bid. The Deal's own parent, TheStreet, could even try to buy Asset International. And another private equity buyer might get in on the deal. 

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