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Sale of HBJ Publications Could Result in Expanded Santa Ana Magazine Unit

November 17, 1987|MARIA L. La GANGA | Times Staff Writer

The $334-million sale of HBJ Publications to a group of private investors is expected to lead to the eventual expansion of the company's Santa Ana-based magazine unit, a 22-year-old publisher of trade magazines broaching topics from cycles to saunas.

"The credo now is to blossom and grow," said Eileen Paulin, a Santa Ana-based HBJ vice president. "We have a couple of launches on the drawing boards right now."

Although Paulin declined to discuss details of the proposed projects, she said they will lead to an increase in the 65-member staff, because "more published product means more people."

Drastic changes in size and leadership are not new to the magazine unit, which started out as Hester Communications in a tiny, airport-area office in 1965.

Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, parent company of Cleveland-based HBJ Publications, made its first inroads into the West Coast magazine industry in January, 1985, when it bought Hester--then a small magazine publisher and trade show organizer. The acquisition brought six healthy trade journals into the HBJ fold.

The proposed purchase of HBJ Publications by a management-led investment group signals the group's third group of owners in almost as many years. When the sale is completed in January, the new company will be called Edgell Communications after Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Vice Chairman Robert L. Edgell, who will leave Harcourt to head the new firm.

"It went from a middle-sized entrepreneurial publishing company to becoming part of a Fortune 500 company, and now Edgell has bought it," Paulin said.

HBJ Publications still publishes five of the six magazines originally bought from Hester. Motorcycle Business USA, a quarterly publication that had the lowest circulation of all the Santa Ana-based periodicals, has since been phased out. Entertainment Merchandising, which was founded in October, 1986, has taken its place.

The six Santa Ana-based magazines have a combined circulation of about 83,300. Although they can be bought by subscription, they generally have what is called a "controlled circulation," a trade term for free, non-subscription distribution to members of the industries they cover. Such magazines typically generate their operating revenues and profits from ads.

With a circulation of 25,700, Video Store is the unit's most widely distributed magazine; Spa and Sauna: The Voice of the Hot Water Industry is the smallest, circulating to about 8,000 spa and sauna retailers nationwide.

Dealernews, which focuses on the motorcycle industry, was founded in 1965 and is the oldest magazine in the group. Its November, 1987, edition highlights a new California law requiring riders of all-terrain vehicles younger than 18 to pass a rider-training course. A "Market Focus" column examines the problems of exhaust noise.

Flotation Sleep Industry is aimed at water-bed sellers and has a circulation of 9,500. One recent edition featured a close-up on mattresses and an article entitled "Heaters: Extinguishing the Flotation Fire."

HBJ Publications also publishes four "buyers' guides," annual directories that are tied to the company's magazines and list products and manufacturers for the spa, bicycle, water-bed and motorcycle industries.

But magazines are only part of the Santa Ana operation. It is also the western base for HBJ's rapidly expanding trade-show business, staging six major shows each year, including a Bicycle Dealer Showcase in Long Beach and Dealernews motorcycle trade shows in Long Beach and Cincinnati.

Mary E. Abood, an HBJ Publications spokeswoman in Cleveland, said that growth in the exposition business is one reason why the Santa Ana operations are expected to expand.

Paulin said the sale to Edgell will also give the magazine makers "more control."

"We have a great deal of confidence in our upper management," Paulin said Monday. "This (sale) will give us the ability to set our own course and go for it."



Circulation: 11,000

Audience: Dealers of bicycles, mopeds and related products

Founded: 1971


Circulation: 14,100

Audience: Motorcycle dealers

Founded: 1965


Circulation: 15,000

Audience: Merchandise managers and buyers of videocassettes, compact audio discs and books on tape for chain stores

Founded: October, 1986


Circulation: 9,500

Audience: Waterbed specialty dealers and conventional furniture dealers who sell flotation beds

Founded: 1972


Circulation: 8,000

Audience: Sauna retailers

Founded: 1976


Circulation: 25,700

Audience: Retailers of home video hardware, software and accessories

Founded: 1979

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