KKR, the private-equity firm headed by George R. Roberts and Henry R. Kravis, has confirmed a digital joint venture with Ringier AG, a prominent Swiss media company. It seems the deal was finalized with personal persuasion from Henry Kravis, aligning his company with the 180-year-old Swiss publishing business.
According to Ringier AG’s website, the company is “the largest internationally operating Swiss media company, producing over 120 newspapers and magazines,” of Ringier’s longstanding history as a leader in print media and beyond. “With its 180-year history, Ringier stands for a pioneering spirit and individuality as well as independence, freedom of expression, and diversity of information,” continues the website.
KKR now holds a 49% stake in the company, with chairman Michael Ringier continuing to manage the publishing business. Kravis met personally with higher ups in a bid to motivate the publisher, as Ringier initially had doubts with being involved with the New York-based private-equity firm, fearing a drop in quality with such a move.
However, Kravis met personally with Chairman Marc Walder for a breakfast, to reassure and lay any hesitations to rest. Kravis impressed, with Walder saying of the meeting, “It was a really big deal for us here in Switzerland and the family was very skeptical in the beginning…[He} started talking about his beginning and his principles and why he’s interested in working in a well-known family company. This was very important to us. There was no bluffing, no negotiating tactics.”
With new deal would expand the Swiss company into the digital realm, moving away from print with plans to make $100 million Swiss Francs ($109 million USD) worth of online acquisitions, with a higher interested in classified ad spaces. Ringier will continue its print business however, and KKR will hold its stake in the digital side for four or five years.