American Lawyer Media Could Be Sold This Month

ALM MediaNEW YORK, May 30 (Reuters) - At least four private equity firms are in the final round of bidding for the publisher of The American Lawyer and Corporate Counsel magazines, with a deal expected to exceed $700 million, sources said on Wednesday.

The media company, called ALM, is controlled by legendary Wall Street dealmaker Bruce Wasserstein through a private equity fund he runs. ALM put itself up for sale in March.

Sources close to the deal say James Finkelstein, a partner at buyout firm Avista Capital Partners, is among those pursuing the company. Finkelstein was formerly chief executive of the legal publishing company that Wasserstein bought and turned into ALM.

Elevation Partners, the media-focused buyout firm founded by veteran dealmakers and U2 lead singer Bono, is also bidding for ALM, sources say. The auction is expected to wrap up sometime in the next month or so.

ALM, whose glossy magazines are popular among U.S. lawyers and legal professionals, has annual cash flow of about $50 million, sources say. Any offer above $700 million would value the company at more than 14 times its cash flow, a hefty multiple even in the media industry. The company declined to comment.

Other interested suitors include publicly traded buyout firm Investcorp  and Incisive Media, another media company that Apax Partners bought late last year, sources said. Elevation, Investcorp and Incisive declined to comment. Finkelstein did not return multiple phone calls.

Wasserstein Perella, an advisory boutique formed by Wasserstein and another famed banker, Joseph Perella, bought American Lawyer Media for $200 million through an affiliate in 1997. Finkelstein, as CEO and president of the company, helped broker the deal. Wasserstein Perella was later sold to a bank.

ALM, which in January 2005 changed its name from American Lawyer Media, was formed by U.S. Equity Partners L.P., a private equity fund sponsored by Wasserstein & Co.

Wasserstein also runs merger advisory firm Lazard Ltd. and is chairman of The Deal LLC, a media company focused on the mergers & acquisitions market.

Wasserstein & Co. has hired investment bank Credit Suisse Group to explore ALM's options.

ALM owns and publishes 33 national and regional magazines and newspapers catering to the legal and business communities, including The National Law Journal and Real Estate Forum. The company is also one of North America's largest producers of conferences and trade shows for the legal profession.

Private equity firms buy and sell companies, borrowing most of the money needed to finance deals. They seek strong cash flows in order to pay down debt costs.

Magazine assets typically generate strong cash flows, which has prompted the attention of private equity buyers. That in turn has pushed up multiples throughout the industry, causing some buyers to balk.

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