Active Interest Media, parent to dozens of enthusiast magazine titles — from Backpacker to Climbing to Yoga Journal to SNEWS — announced Monday that it has acquired SKI, Skiing, Nastar Ski Racing and Warren Miller Entertainment from Bonnier Corp.
AIM President Andrew Clurman said the deal, “makes a tremendous amount of sense when you think about what they do, and what we do.” He emphasized his excitement about diversifying the business by increasing its event marketing, multimedia and video capabilities; deepening AIM’s footprint in the snowsports market; and, on a more personal note, re-engaging with an industry he’s passionate about. On Warren Miller, he noted, “Those films have been an iconic kick-off to the ski season for 60 years.”
The move marks a return home for Clurman, who led business operations for SKI and Skiing as senior vice president at Times Mirror Magazines/Time Warner and subsequently as president of Mountain Sports Media. Under his tenure from the 1990s to the mid-2000s, the businesses grew by 50 percent and the quality and scope of the products increased substantially, in part through the acquisition of Warren Miller.
Sweden’s Bonnier Group, one of Europe’s largest media companies with properties in 20 countries, acquired SKI, Skiing and Warren Miller from Time Inc. in 2007 as part of a larger $225 million deal. The acquisition involved about 550 employees and numerous other titles in the Time4 Media Group division. Bonnier coupled the three wintersports titles under the Bonnier Mountain Group, which is in turn was part of its U.S. division. Also included in the acquisition is Skiing Business, the online wintersports trade publication, which AIM plans to bring out of its current hiatus.
Bonnier Corp.’s U.S. CEO, Dave Freygang, whose appointment to the top post was announced in January, said the acquisition by AIM was a good fit:
“I am very happy to have found the right buyer for the Mountain Group, one that will be able to cultivate these specialized snow titles and properties,” Freygang said. “This sale strategically allows us to concentrate our focus and shift resources to our businesses in California, New York and Florida.”
While AIM operates in five primary special-interest markets — outdoor, equine, home, healthy living and marine — all of its outdoor titles are located in Boulder, just blocks from the SKI, Skiing and Warren Miller offices. The ski brands will become part of AIM’s Outdoor Group, led by SVP Jonathan Dorn, joining Backpacker, Climbing, SNEWS, Outdoor Retailer Daily and National Park Trips. AIM plans to co-locate the entire group into one office in the near future.
Bonnier Mountain Group’s current group publisher, Andrew Bigford, will become general manager and vice president of the snowsports business in the new organization, overseeing strategic operations and editorial at the three properties. The deal closes a circle for Bigford, who before moving to Bonnier in January had overseen the SIA Snow Show Dailies for AIM. "I'm excited to be back with AIM and to be working again with Andy and Allen [Crolius]. These brands are my passion, and we're going to give them the leadership and resources to be the undisputed voice for the sport, the lifestyle and the industry.” AIM also has hired industry veteran Allen Crolius as vice president of sales for the outdoor and ski titles, a new position charged with extending the creative services capabilities of the combined operations.
Initial reaction from the snowsports industry was overwhelmingly positive.
David Ingemie, the president of SnowSports Industries America, expressed the industry’s enthusiasm to have some of its own working to broaden distribution, network with brands and dealers, and connect with consumers. Clurman, Ingemie said, has “an amazing passion for snowsports and an understanding of how the snowsports industry works.”
Michael Berry, the president of the National Ski Areas Association, concurred. “The industry is absolutely excited to have Andy Clurman, Andy Bigford and Al [Crolius] back. We think it will enhance every effort we make to grow the industry and help it prosper,” Berry told SNEWS. The NSAA’s national convention and tradeshow opens today at the Westin Mission Hills Resort and Spa in California, and Berry will be speaking more about the deal there.