A Puzzling Future for Specialty Magazines – April 2016 M&A Activity
Kappa Media Group, the publishing arm of centa-millionaire Nicholas Karabot’s Pennsylvania-based business empire, has doubled down on its investments in the printing industry with the acquisition of Vanguard Printing in Ithaca, New York. Vanguard is a web and sheetfed offset printing company with a focus on printing specialty magazines, as well as catalogs and books. The acquisition adds significant printing capacity to Karabots’ portfolio which includes Kappa Graphics, a similarly equipped printing company located in northeast Pennsylvania, not far from Ithaca.
The source of Karabots’ fortune was selling printing and printing supplies to the publisher of Reader’s Digest. He subsequently bought a publishing company that issues a stream of specialty titles including game, crossword and puzzle books, as well as off-beat titles in wrestling and astrology; recently adding adult coloring books (not “adult” topics, just art that is more difficult-to-color). Other businesses in the portfolio include fulfillment services for publishers, a golf resort, vineyards and real estate investments.
No reference to Karabots, the self-proclaimed “bad kid” who belonged to a gang growing up in the South Bronx, would be complete without mentioning his philanthropic activities in the Philly metro area he now calls home: endowing a wing to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, significant donations to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and a $10 million gift to the Franklin Institute where children learn about science and technology. It would appear that Vanguard Printing has landed in good hands.
In contrast to the success of Kappa Media, another publisher of printed specialty magazines, Harris Publications, threw in the towel and called it quits, shuttering its 75 titles with nary any advance notice. Based in New York City, Harris produced magazines catering to highly focused target audiences including custom automotive (Rides), urban star gossip (Juicy), gardening (Container Gardening), guns (16 titles, including such nuanced specialties like Combat Handguns and Tactical Weapons), pets (Dog News), and more. In announcing the closure, the owner clearly took aim at and blamed digital media and the ongoing disruption in the newsstand distribution system for the company’s failure.