Aurelius sells Publicitas

After two years, the German investment company Aurelius is selling Publicitas as part of a management buy-out. Werbewoche asked what happens next.

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In June 2014, Aurelius had acquired Publicitas from its parent company Publigroupe (Werbewoche.ch reported). After one year, Publicitas lost the important customer NZZ - the media house founded NZZ Media Solutions and took advertising sales into its own hands from then on. Aurelius criticized the fact that it had not been sufficiently informed about the impending loss of the major customer prior to the purchase and that complained against Publigroupe's new owner Swisscom.

One and a half years later, Aurelius is now divesting the Swiss advertising marketer. As part of a management buy-out, the investments will go to the existing management team under CEO Jörg Nürnberg and CFO Carsten Brinkmeier. In addition to the two operating partners, a third, silent partner is involved. The parties have agreed not to disclose the financial details.

Owner changes, course remains

What was the motivation of the new owners to take over Publicitas? "The entrepreneurial role suits us more," explains CEO Nürnberg to Werbewoche. It also simplifies structures, which saves time and money. "We cover the Group and the Board of Directors in one person," he adds.

The environment is not easy. Nevertheless, the new owners believe in success. "Otherwise we wouldn't have done it," assures the CEO with a twinkle in his eye. "The market environment is difficult, but interesting." They are convinced, he says, that Publicitas has a large part of its success in its own hands. "Great products, forward-looking services and super employees give us the confidence that we have a firm place in this market environment," Nürnberg is convinced.

The new owners would continue the new course set since the purchase by Aurelius - the digital market is to remain the top priority, writes Aurelius - and also confirms Nuremberg: "We are sticking to our course. Publicitas has a sharp outline again, with which we can guarantee our publishers cost leadership at 110 percent quality level. We will continue our investments in new technologies."

According to Nuremberg, not much will change for customers and partners either. "We assume that the change of ownership represents an insignificant change for them, as no transition to a competitor company has taken place."

Save and earn more

Publicitas has meanwhile embarked on a cost-cutting course and reduced the workloads of its employees. However, the reductions were made on a voluntary basis, as spokeswoman Chantal Häberling emphasized on Wednesday in response to an inquiry from Werbewoche. The company had appealed to the spirit of its employees and wanted to break new ground in a volatile market. This is also confirmed by Sales Director Wolfgang Schickli. He is proud of the Swiss employees, because they have made an "incredible effort" in connection with the voluntary reduction in the workload.

However, there will be no job cuts as a result of the change in ownership, as CEO Nürnberg assures Werbewoche. However, he does not rule out the possibility of staff cuts in the future: "If we have to reduce resources, it will be in response to changing market requirements." This includes further relocations to the SSC in Bratislava, which was founded in 2015.

However, the cost-cutting measures will also affect other areas, as CFO Brinkmeier explains: "Of course, we are turning over every stone, tackling IT material costs in the same way as rents and other items. Unfortunately, however, personnel costs are by far the largest item, so that action must be taken consistently.

However, one does not only think about saving. After all, the profit and loss statement starts with the revenues, says Brinkmeier. "We will pay much more attention to ensuring that our services are also recognized financially.

The black zero as a goal

The goal to be achieved with the measures is clearly defined: "For 2017, we are fighting for the zero result," says Brinkmeier. "If we manage that, we will have ended at least an eight-year history of losses. How we manage to do that, we know."

And in the medium term? "We want to develop enough digital business to at least compensate for the decline in print," says Brinkmann. For the time being, that's enough to look to the future. "We'll talk about long-term goals later.

Thomas Häusermann

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