Northstar Travel Eyes International Expansion With Three Acquisitions

October 08, 2019

Northstar Travel Group is on a buying spree.

The Secaucus, N.J.-based, private equity-backed B2B media company mainly serving the travel and hospitality space has acquired travAlliancemedia, Buying Business Travel Media and CAT Media in a trio of separate deals announced Monday and Tuesday.

TravAlliancemedia, also based in New Jersey, operates TravelPulse.com—which it says reaches 90% of all U.S.-based travel agents —offshoots TravelPulse Canada and TravelPulse Mexico, a twice-monthly print magazine, Agent at Home, as well as an online education and content marketing business geared toward travel agents in North America. It was founded in 2002 as Performance Media before rebranding to travAlliance in 2011.

As a result of the sale, travAlliance founder and CEO Mark Murphy will transition into an advisory role for the combined company, which Northstar chairman and CEO Tom Kemp says will yield "an unparalleled portfolio of marketing services, online media, events and marketing tools serving the travel advisory community."

Part of the draw from Northstar's perspective was the opportunity to expand north of the U.S.-Canada border. The audience for its largest brand serving travel advisors, Travel Weekly, is 97% U.S.-based in print and 80% U.S.-based online, with 5.6% of subscribers to its email newsletters based in Canada, according to its December 2018 audience report, the most recent available.

"We are very excited about the growth opportunities in Canada and we will work with [TravelPulse Canada president and EIC] John Kirk to determine what Northstar brands and products we may introduce in Canada," said Bob Sullivan, group president of Northstar's corporate travel, retail travel and technology brands.

Additionally, Northstar said Monday that it has acquired London-based Buying Business Travel, a bimonthly magazine, website and events business serving corporate travel and meetings professionals, from Panacea Media.

With a controlled circulation of around 17,000 corporate travel and meetings buyers, according to its media kit, Buying Business Travel will serve as a UK-based complement to Northstar's Business Travel News, which serves a similar-in-profile but larger and mostly U.S.-based audience.

"The combination of these leading brands creates a powerful position for our expansion in the UK and European corporate travel market," said Northstar's Business Travel News group publisher, Louis Magliaro, in a statement.

In a third acquisition announced Tuesday, Northstar bolstered its portfolio of meetings and incentives industry brands with the purchase of another London-based firm: CAT Media, the 32-year-old publisher of B2B magazines Meetings & Incentives Travel and Association Meetings International.

The Buying Business Travel and CAT Media acquisitions come about six months after Northstar acquired a pair of annual London trade shows, The Business Travel Show and The Meetings Show, from Centaur Media for £9.25 million ($11.37 million).

"Taken together with The Meetings Show, the UK's largest MICE [meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions] industry hosted buyer show... the addition of CAT Media extends our breadth and depth in service of supporting the meetings industry," said David Blansfield, EVP and group publisher of Northstar's meetings group, which includes the North America-focused Meetings & Conventions, Successful Meetings and Incentive magazines, as well as M&C Asia and M&C China, among others.

Northstar is a portfolio company of EagleTree Capital, the New York-based private equity firm led by Anup Bagaria and formerly known as Wasserstein Partners, which also owns ALM Media and previously owned Penton before selling that company to Informa in 2016 as part of a $1.56 billion deal.

Founded in 2001 after private equity firm Boston Ventures acquired a group of brands then-known as the Cahners Travel Group from Reed Elsevier, Northstar was sold to the Wicks Group, another private equity firm, in 2012 before Wicks sold it to Wasserstein Partners in 2016. Northstar was an active acquirer in 2017 after first joining the Wasserstein/EagleTree portfolio, but was relatively quiet on the M&A front throughout 2018.

The financial terms of none of this week's transactions were disclosed.

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