PEI was formed in London in November 2001 when a team of managers bought out a group of assets from financial media group Euromoney Institutional Investor PLC. These assets centred on the website PrivateEquityOnline.com. A month later we launched our first print magazine: Private Equity International
Strong growth since inception
PEI was formed in late 2001 in a buyout by a team of managers working at a major listed financial media group.
The plan was to provide substantive coverage of private equity, already by then becoming one of the key global alternative asset classes for investors. We wanted to focus on the relationship between institutional capital and the fund managers tasked with investing this money. Then, as now, we saw incisive coverage of this relationship as being a defining feature of what we do.
Since then we have built a portfolio of publication brands, focused on the alternative asset classes we now cover, and around which we cluster a wide range of products and services.
This timeline gives you more detail of what we have done, and when.
Our first full year of trading saw us focus on growing subscribers, and increasingly sophisticated digital marketing helped us make rapid progress. Advertising revenue took off also, as we quickly built an extensive book of advertising clients. We also published our first specialist book.
From the outset we wanted to be able to connect effectively with the key markets for our asset classes, so the opening of our New York office in January was an obvious as well as important step. We staffed it with a range of professionals, including journalists, conference managers and sales people - a full-service team. We also produced our first conference, for private equity CFOs and COOs, in London.
Our increasingly close relationship with the global private equity industry meant that we launched a second, more specialised, publication for operational professionals at fund management firms in June. Private Equity Manager - rebranded in 2019 as Private Funds CFO - quickly established itself as the key title for COOs, CFOs and CLOs at private equity firms. And our conference business was gaining momentum, hosting four events in London and New York this year.
We moved into our second key asset class with the launch of PERE. As with private equity, we created a sizeable community of readers online and in print, the latter format providing an extra dimension for both subscribers and advertisers. Besides developing a suite of conferences to sit beneath this brand, we began to build a database of investors in private real estate funds and published books focused on the strategy.
With both our private equity and real estate publications growing fast and significant expansion too in our conference portfolio (12 events in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and North America) we now began to build out our operational capabilities. Dedicated marketing and finance professionals joined the team, and our product portfolio began to be owned by more clearly delineated groups within the company: publishing, conferences and specialist publications. Our head count reached 50.
Asia beckoned: it was clear that there was an opportunity to further our global but local principle by opening an office in the region. Initially based in Singapore, we established another multi-faceted presence in order to grow our editorial coverage, our event portfolio and our customer base in the region. We also undertook a secondary MBO enabling our original investors to exit and for the company to become wholly owned by its management.
Despite the turmoil in global markets we were continuing to grow our roster of conferences – hosting 19 events that year – as well as launching a professional development business within this division. 2008 also saw PEI move into online databases for the first time with the launch of private equity and real estate data products. Our current CEO Tim McLoughlin joined to lead the business as Group Managing Director.
We moved into a third alternative asset class – infrastructure – with the launch of Infrastructure Investor magazine and website. This was a community we already knew through our annual infrastructure event held in Berlin. The publication quickly became the leading source for news and analysis of the global infrastructure investment market.
This year saw us invest in the development of our core brand, in Customer Relationship Management and data research. 2010 was also the 2,500th anniversary of the original running of the Marathon, and we co-lead an ambitious fund-raising effort that helped to raise €2,500,000 for UNICEF and other charities working with children across the world.
We celebrated our tenth anniversary, having grown to over one hundred people in three regional offices. November also saw us publish the 100th edition of Private Equity International magazine which we marked with a 120-page publication involving many of the industry’s leading figures and which looked back at a decade of private equity. We also strengthened our Asian business with the hiring of a Managing Director for Asia.
We moved our Asian headquarters to Hong Kong from Singapore and located our growing team in new offices there. As the US economy began to strengthen, we also saw great opportunities in North America for PEI across all of our asset classes. In September we reinforced our New York team with the hiring of a Managing Director for the Americas tasked with leading further investment and growth in the region.
In March we began covering our fourth alternative asset class when we launched Private Debt Investor magazine and website. We also completed a total upgrade of our digital platform across all business systems. And, given the ongoing upheavals in many economies, it was notable that we had record-breaking attendances in three of our key conferences: one in New York, one in Hong Kong and one in Berlin.
In early 2014, the company made its first acquisition, adding Real Estate Capital to its portfolio of publishing brands. We also launched a number of new digital-only publications focused on emerging segments within the alternative asset classes: Secondaries Investor and Agri Investor, enabling us to extend our reach into these growing communities of investors, funds and advisors.
Passing yet another milestone in its evolution, in September 2015 PEI Media Group secured financial backing from LDC, the UK private equity arm of Lloyds Bank. LDC’s purchase of a significant minority stake in the company came at a time when our publishing business had grown to 10 stand-alone titles, alongside a global events portfolio now comprising circa 50 industry conferences, networking events and investor council seminars.
We brought in a new CFO and added a CTIO to spearhead our growth agenda on the digital side. In Conferences, we drove a transformation strategy to optimise events management and delivery. In Publishing, the focus was on building brand recognition and market share for both the flagship titles and also the more recent product launches. The business finished its first full year under PE ownership robustly ahead of plan.
This was a year typified first and foremost by digital enhancement. It brought rapid advances to the ambitious tech investment programme started in 2016, which resulted in our publishing platform migrating from its legacy CMS onto WordPress, as well as the foundations being laid for a new CRM, subscriptions management and customer data platform. Commercially PEI also moved forward, with Advertising & Sponsorship, Subscription Sales and Conferences all posting record-breaking revenue growth.
In June, consistent above-plan revenue and EBITDA expansion since 2015 culminated in a highly successful early exit for LDC, when Bridgepoint Development Capital became our new partner and majority shareholder in the business. Before and after this milestone transaction, strong underlying fundamentals in all our asset classes meant that robust trading and commercial progress continued unabated throughout the year.
PEI’s largest acquisition to date in April transformed our presence in North America. New publications including Buyouts, PE Hub, Venture Capital Journal and Regulatory Compliance Watch; an additional US event portfolio to complement the one we already owned; a doubling of our US headcount to over 100 staff and new offices in Maryland and California all combined to position the business perfectly for further expansion in the world’s largest marketplace for private capital investors.