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Velo News, Inside Tri sold to Competitor Group

Written by: Dan Empfield
Date: Mon Feb 11 2008

Falconhead Capital announced today it has acquired Inside Communications, Inc, (ICI), which includes VeloNews, Inside Triathlon, VeloPress, VeloSwap and VeloGear. In so doing Falconhead continued to assemble important endurance sports titles, adding these to the purchase in December of Triathlete and Competitor Magazines. All are now part of Competitor Group, Inc. (CGI), which also owns high-profile footraces. CGI now stables triathlon's two dominant multisport print publications, as well as cycling's preeminent U.S.-based bike racing periodical. Inside Triathlon will be repositioned, according to ICI's press release, "as an up-market, 'elite' companion to Triathlete."

This acquisition solves Triathlete Magazine's problem of having Inside Triathlon compete head-to-head for ad dollars, and clears the deck for CGI's Senior VP of print publications, John Duke, to sell specialty annuals (such as Road to Kona and Tour de France annuals) without its historic rival also bidding. ICI's CEO, Felix Magowan, underscored this by referencing CGI's president, Peter Englehart, and his "solid relationship with people at Amaury Sport Organization (the parent company of the Tour de France)."

Englehart assured that the current acquisition will not require a relocation. "We are not interested in tampering with what has made the company successful," Englehart told ICI employees. "We want to build on what you've already accomplished. Shifting the base of operations of a well-established company, with a lot of talent would not make sense."

An important part of Falconhead Capital's strategy, according to comments by its chairman and CEO David Moross to Slowtwitch last month, is to offer bundled marketing solutions to flagship advertising partners. The requirement for this is CGI's ownership of the participation experience, which it's well on the way to owning based on its deal with Elite Racing (Rock and Roll Marathons, Country Music Marathon, the Carlsbad 5000), as well as the Muddy Buddy Series it acquired through its deal with Competitor Magazine. Also, CGI must own the virtual and the print experience, and today's announcement helps exhibit its resolve to do that.

That established, CGI now owns most of the relevant cycling and triathon media but none of those sports' events, and it owns running's events but not its media. Are there more acquisitions to come? Falconhead Capital declined to comment on any future acquisitions.

Today's deal comes as a bit of a surprise, since negotiations were declared dead by Magowan eight weeks ago. Obviously not. What brought about the change of heart? "It really started in the spring of last year," Magowan said in a prepared statement. "We were surprised, for example, when was sold to ESPN for $100 million." Magowan said that the recent sales of and soon also triggered interest in his company.

The pace and extent of these acquisitions appears to have swayed Magowan, who frankly admitted that his organization was, "too undercapitalized to take advantage of all the growth opportunities available to us on the web, in print, books, events and mail order."


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