Apax, GMG To Hit Jackpot With Top Right Sale

Sky News

The media conglomerate behind the Cannes Lions advertising festival and the fashion industry bible Draper’s is being prepared for a sale or flotation valuing it at more than £1bn.

Sky News has learnt that Apax Partners, the private equity firm which acquired control of Top Right Group in 2008, has asked investment banks to pitch for the mandate to advise on options for offloading the company.

Banking sources said on Sunday that Top Right, which used to be called Emap, was worth well over £1bn, adding that there was likely to be considerable demand from both public market investors and other buyout firms.

Just under 33% of Top Right is owned by Guardian Media Group (GMG), meaning that a deal valuing Top Right at £1.2bn would equate to a windfall of approximately £400m for the publisher of The Guardian and The Observer.

Apax and GMG previously jointly owned Auto Trader, the title for secondhand car buyers, and are said to believe that it is an opportune time to explore a sale of Top Right.

Top Right generates revenues from three separate segments: events, which include the Cannes Lions and a new awards summit focused on healthcare industry communications; information services, which includes businesses such as the trends data provider WGSN; and Emap, which houses titles including Draper’s, Health Service Journal and Retail Week.

Reporting results earlier this year for 2014, Duncan Painter, Top Right’s chief executive, described a three-year turnaround plan as being “complete”.

“Our businesses have effective growth strategies in place and clear operating priorities,” he said.

“I am delighted to announce that we have again grown our client base and further improved customer satisfaction and retention to industry-leading levels.”

Turnover during the year increased by 15%, with pre-tax profit up by 24% to more than £85m.

News of the plan to hold a beauty parade of investment banks comes just weeks after GMG’s board appointed David Pemsel as its new chief executive.

Mr Pemsel has been handed the role at a time of major change for the group, which has just seen Alan Rusbridger relinquish the editorship of its flagship newspaper after 20 years.

The Guardian’s new editor, Katharine Viner, is a long-standing journalist at the title, ensuring a degree of continuity that was mirrored in the company’s leadership with Mr Pemsel’s appointment.

Top Right is headquartered in London and employs more than 1,800 people.

The company has reduced its debts substantially in the last two years, partly as a consequence of the sale of assets such as CAP, an automotive information business.

Apax could not be reached for comment on Sunday, while a GMG spokesman declined to comment.