Stock In Trade: VNU Seen As Takeover Candidate, Primedia Announces Split-Up

Gigantic Dutch marketing and media research firm VNU may be moving from suitor to takeover candidate. Shares of VNU, the parent of Nielsen Media Research, ACNielsen, and publications such as Adweek, Billboard, and The Hollywood Reporter, rose Monday after the European edition of The Wall Street Journal reported that some big private equity firms including Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. are weighing a bid to take it over in a stock buyout plan valued at nearly $8 billion.

The report comes as VNU faces continuing opposition from some big shareholders to its plan to acquire IMS Health, a big pharmaceutical industry marketing research supplier, which at one time was part of the same company that owned Nielsen and ACNielsen.

Kohlberg Kravis has dabbled frequently in media industry businesses, and has been a major shareholder controlling, and ultimately dismembering, Primedia--once one of the major media conglomerates, which today will announce a plan to split itself up even more, via a tax-free spin-off into two separate publicly traded companies.



Primedia said the plan, which will be detailed to shareholders today, is designed to "unlock value for shareholders." It would separate Primedia's Consumer Guides Segment from the company's Enthusiast Media and Education units.

As part of the plan, Primedia restructured its management team, announcing the departure of CEO Kelly Conlin, who oversaw the company during its most recent downsizing period. Dean Nelson, currently chairman of Primedia, was named president-CEO.

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