PennWell Corporation History

1421 South Sheridan Road
Tulsa, Oklahoma 74112

Telephone: (918) 835-3161
Fax: (918) 831-9497

Private Company
Incorporated: 1910 as Petroleum Publishing Company
Employees: 700+
Sales: $100 million (2002 est.)
NAIC: 511120 Periodical Publishers; 511130 Book Publishers; 561920 Convention and Trade Show Organizers

Company Perspectives:

PennWell is a global information company dedicated to anticipating and exceeding our customers' changing needs. We provide quality, timely information through continuous innovation of our products and services. In each of the high growth strategic markets we serve, PennWell's products cover leading edge developments in technology and management. PennWell has a long history of magazine publishing with roots back to 1910 when the company began publishing an oil journal serving the emerging petroleum industry in the United States. With an aggressive strategy for diversification and a vision for growth, PennWell came from this humble beginning to a company that today serves computer, laser, electronic, municipal, health care, fire and emergency services, energy and environmental fields through business and technical magazines, along with trade shows, conferences, books, maps, database resources and market research for these same markets.

Key Dates:

Oil Investors' Journal is founded in Beaumont, Texas, by Holland S. Reavis.
Patrick C. Boyle acquires the Oil Investors' Journal, renames it the Oil & Gas Journal, and establishes the Petroleum Publishing Company.
Boyle's son-in-law, Frank T. Lauinger, assumes control upon Boyle's death.
Lauinger dies suddenly, and his son P.C. Lauinger takes over the company.
Oil & Gas Journal carries more advertising than any other American magazine.
Petroleum Publishing Co. changes its name to PennWell Publishing Co.
Frank T. Lauinger becomes PennWell's chairman following the death of P.C. Lauinger.
PennWell develops Vision 2000, an aggressive plan for growth during the 1990s.
PennWell formulates a new long-term vision and changes its name to PennWell Corporation.
PennWell launches PennEnergy to provide electronic commerce services to the oil and gas and electric power industries.

Company History:

For most of the 20th century, PennWell Corporation's principal publication was the Oil & Gas Journal. It was not until the 1980s and 1990s that the company diversified into other markets. While the Oil & Gas Journal remained the company's flagship publication, PennWell embarked on an aggressive growth strategy in the late 1980s and 1990s that resulted in the company publishing some 44 business-to-business magazines, newsletters, and technical journals. The company also conducts more than 50 conferences and exhibitions and has an extensive line of books, maps, encyclopedias, directories, videos, research reports, and database services. As of 2003 PennWell's overall readership included more than 1.5 million executives, engineers, technical managers, and other professionals worldwide.

Early History: 1902-88

PennWell Corporation, known simply as PennWell, can trace its roots to the first decade of the 20th century, when the U.S. petroleum industry was beginning to emerge. In 1902 The Oil Investors' Journal was founded in Beaumont, Texas, by Holland S. Reavis. Reavis was a St. Louis newspaperman who had been drawn to Texas by the Spindletop oil discovery. His journal was devoted initially to financial and investment topics for oil field operators and investors and was focused on development in the Beaumont oil fields. It soon shifted its orientation to oil company operations and expanded its coverage to the entire U.S. Southwest. The journal adopted a yellow cover in 1907 and acquired the nickname, "The Big Yellow Book," which stuck throughout its history.

Reavis sold The Oil Investors' Journal to Patrick C. Boyle in 1910. Boyle was a former oil field scout for John D. Rockefeller. At the time he acquired The Oil Investors' Journal Boyle was publisher of the Oil City Derrick newspaper in Pennsylvania. Boyle formed the Petroleum Publishing Company, predecessor to the PennWell Corporation, in 1910 when he acquired The Oil Investors' Journal. He renamed the semimonthly publication Oil & Gas Journal and increased its frequency to weekly. He also moved its main office to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where it remained until it moved to Houston, Texas, in 1989.

Under Boyle's direction, Oil & Gas Journal began covering all oil industry operations. Through Boyle's Pennsylvania-based newspaper Oil & Gas Journal gained access to a network of experienced oil industry correspondents located throughout the United States.

When Boyle died in 1920, his son-in-law Frank T. Lauinger became president of Petroleum Publishing. He headed the company for about ten years before his sudden death in 1931. He was succeeded by his son, P.C. Lauinger, who had worked with his father throughout the 1920s. P.C. Lauinger ran the company for many years and was active in its management until his death in 1988. Under his leadership the Oil & Gas Journal became a technical journal as well as a news magazine. Technical writers, engineers, geologists, and economists were added to the staff, and the magazine expanded its scope internationally. The journal became known as the "bible" of the oil industry.

Petroleum Publishing also expanded under the leadership of P.C. Lauinger. The company began acquiring other periodicals serving other industries. In 1980 it was renamed PennWell Publishing Company during its rapid diversification, with "Penn" representing its roots in Pennsylvania and "Well" its beginnings in the oil fields. The company also began sponsoring trade shows and exhibitions to serve the readers of Oil & Gas Journal and other publications.

In 1982 PennWell spun off its Tulsa-based printing operation into a new subsidiary, PennWell Printing Co. PennWell Printing operated for 15 years, until 1997, when it was sold to Brown Printing Co., a Minnesota-based subsidiary and joint venture of German media companies Bertelsmann and Gruner+Jahr. At the time of the sale, PennWell Printing had about 200 employees and printed about 100 business and trade magazines.

Developing Aggressive Growth Plans: 1988-2000

When P.C. Lauinger died in 1988, he was succeeded by his son, Philip C. Lauinger, Jr. In 1991 the company's top management developed a ten-year growth plan called Vision 2000, at the urging, in large part, of Robert F. Biolchini. Biolchini, who was P.C. Lauinger's son-in-law, had provided PennWell with business and legal counsel since 1971 and became president and CEO of the company in 2000.

Vision 2000 called for an aggressive growth strategy for PennWell. During the 1990s PennWell made more than 30 acquisitions and launched more than 80 new magazines, conferences, and other information products. The company also expanded into online publishing. It introduced OGJ Online to complement the print version of Oil & Gas Journal. OGL Online provided updated news about oil and gas, an electronic version of the current issue of Oil & Gas Journal, searchable archives, and an online research center.

PennWell's acquisitions during the 1990s included WaterWorld News, which PennWell acquired in 1991 from the American Water Works Association and renamed WaterWorld. WaterWorld News began publication in 1985. In 1995 PennWell acquired CleanRooms from Witter Publishing. CleanRooms was published monthly for contamination control and maintenance engineers and plant managers. The periodical was first published in 1987. PennWell also acquired Independent Energy from Marier Communications Inc. in 1995. The monthly publication for the power industry was first published in 1971.

In 1998 PennWell acquired Instrumentation & Control Systems from Reed Elsevier Business Information. First published in 1928, the periodical was the control industry's oldest and most respected publication, providing information on control technology for engineers and engineering management. PennWell renamed the publications Control Solutions and included it in its Business and Industrial Division.

PennWell also acquired Image Processing magazine from European Technology Publishing Ltd. in 1998. The bimonthly magazine became part of PennWell's Advanced Technology Division. Following the acquisition it continued to be published at ETP's office in Marlborough, England, under the title Image Processing Europe. It covered image processing products and technologies and machine vision for imaging and vision systems professionals throughout Europe.

PennWell's periodical publications as well as its conferences and exhibitions were organized into two divisions: Business and Industrial Division and Advanced Technology Division. Both divisions also provided their readers with online publications, research and consulting services, databases, and Internet-based services. In addition, the company's Information Products Group offered a variety of books, software, videos, maps, and more for the petroleum, electric power, fire engineering, dental, and municipal water industries.

The Business and Industrial Division included Oil & Gas Journal and other publications for the oil and gas, electric power, fire engineering, dental, and municipal water industries. Dental occupations, for example, were served by Dental Economics, Dental Equipment & Materials, and RDH: Registered Dental Hygienist.

The Advanced Technology Division, established in 1979, published technically oriented business-to-business periodicals for industries such as global electronics, communications, and information technology. While the Business and Industrial Division was based at the company's corporate headquarters in Tulsa, the Advanced Technology Division operated out of Nashua, New Hampshire.

Among the new publications launched by the Business and Industrial Division in the 1990s were Power Delivery Product News in 1991, which was later renamed Power Delivery. The bimonthly was aimed at the electric utility industry as well as architect-engineers and system constructors, distributors, wholesalers, and electrical contractors that worked with electric utilities. The division also launched Power Engineering International in 1993 and Dental Equipment & Materials and Utility Automation in 1996.

The Business and Industrial Division also introduced several new trade shows and conferences during the 1990s. The company expanded upon its successful POWER-GEN International conference, first held in 1986, by offering POWER-GEN Asia in 1992, POWER-GEN Europe in 1993, and POWER-GEN Latin America in 1996. PennWell's POWER-GEN International and FDIC (Fire Department Instructors Conference) rank in the top 200 trade shows in the United States in square footage. FDIC, acquired in 1996 and held annually in Indianapolis, is the nation's leading conference and exhibition for training more than 20,000 fire service professionals.

Advanced Technology publications launched in the 1990s included Data Storage in 1994. Originally published bimonthly, it became a monthly publication that focused on trends and developments in data storage technology, new products, and research covering a variety of storage media. The division also acquired Military & Aerospace Electronics in 1991 and started Microlithography World in 1992, Cabling Installation & Maintenance in 1993, Portable Design in 1995, BackOffice Magazine in 1995, Vision Systems Design in 1996, InfoStor in 1997, and Integrated Communications Design and WDM (Wavelength-Division-Multiplex) Solutions in 1999.

New exhibitions and trade shows introduced by the Advanced Technology Division in the 1990s included international versions of the CleanRooms exhibitions for contamination control and maintenance engineers. In the United States, CleanRooms East was first held in 1990 and CleanRooms West in 1993. After PennWell acquired CleanRooms magazine in 1995, it introduced CleanRooms Asia in 1997 and CleanRooms Europe in 1998.

PennWell also expanded into online publishing during the 1990s, launching web sites to complement its print publications. Computer Graphics World launched its web site, CGW Online, early in 1996. The site included additional articles not found in the print publication as well as extra images, animation, and video clips. It also contained back issues of the magazine, a search engine, an online bookstore, and other features. In 1999 PennWell launched a web site for the water, wastewater, and waste service industries ( The ad-supported site carried editorial content supplied by WaterWorld and other PennWell publications.

In 1998 PennWell developed a new long-term plan called Vision New Millennium. The plan resulted in dropping the word "Publishing" from the company's name and a new logo. Although the firm's new name was officially PennWell Corporation, the company continued to be known simply as PennWell.

In 1999 PennWell added conferences and exhibitions and strengthened its position in international markets through acquisitions. In May the company acquired Latcom, Inc., a Miami-based conference and exhibition company that served the Latin American markets in telecommunications, information technology, and energy. The acquisition complemented PennWell's other products and services aimed at the Latin American market, including Potencia, a magazine for the Latin American power industry acquired in April 1999; the Latin American edition of Oil & Gas Journal; and Prevencion de la Contaminacion for water and waste management industries. It also included conferences and exhibitions such as CaribeCom, a communications technology exhibition established in 1982, and CosCom, a telecommunications conference and exhibition for upper management of Central American telephone and power companies.

Later in 1999 PennWell acquired KMI Corporation, a 25-year-old market research and consulting firm based in Newport, Rhode Island, that specialized in fiberoptics and telecommunications. KMI produced a variety of market research reports, newsletters, and maps in addition to providing database and consulting services. It also produced several conferences and exhibitions, including annual conferences on fiberoptics markets and fiberoptic submarine systems. KMI and Latcom both became part of PennWell's Advanced Technology Division.

PennWell ended the decade by acquiring five magazines from IHS Publishing Group, which was in the process of divesting all of its publishing properties. The five magazines--SMT: Surface Mount Technology, SMT Asia/Pacific, Advanced Packaging, Connector Specifier, and Vacuum & ThinFilm--were acquired in December 1999 and became part of the Advanced Technology Division.

Expansion: 2000-03

In 1999 PennWell launched PennEnergy, a separate company that offered electronic commerce services to the oil and gas and electric power industries. Through its Internet division, PennNet, PennEnergy controlled the Oil & Gas Journal Exchange, a web-based exchange established in 2000 where companies could negotiate for oil and gas properties and sell their used and surplus oilfield and power equipment. The Oil & Gas Journal Exchange also formed a partnership with EBCO, a company that specialized in conducting auctions of oil and gas properties. As part of the partnership PennNet purchased a controlling interest in EBCO, which in its 20-year history had conducted more than $1 billion worth of oil and gas property auction transactions.

Through other key acquisitions, PennWell expanded its presence in electronic commerce in 2000. In March 2000 the company acquired Global Logistics Partners LLC, an Irving, Texas-based broker of used and surplus equipment for the oil, gas, and power industries. In October PennWell bought Madison Energy Advisors Inc., which listed oil and gas properties worth about $250 million. As a result of these acquisitions and other developments, companies using PennEnergy's e-commerce marketplaces conducted annual transactions worth more than $750 million.

In a major restructuring move, PennWell discontinued its in-house subscription fulfillment operation and began using an outside bureau, Omeda Communications, in 2000. The conversion took more than nine months. According to Circulation Management, PennWell decided to outsource its fulfillment because its in-house system was incapable of keeping up with the company's growth and technology needs.

Many of PennWell's publications featured international editions that were published in key markets through trademark and content licensing agreements. Most of PennWell's international publications fell within its Advanced Technology Division. In Japan the company had a cross-editorial licensing agreement with Nikkei Business Publications, Inc., Japan's leading business publisher. For the Asia Pacific region, PennWell established Asian and Chinese editions of CleanRooms and SMT Korea in 2000. They were followed by Compuprint in 2001 and CompoTech China and Electronic Application & Design World in 2002. Other Asian Pacific editions launched in the 1990s included CompoTech Taiwan in 1999; Semiconductor Monthly in Korea and Chinese and Taiwanese editions of Solid State Technology in 1998; Design Wave in 1995; and Taiwan Telecom in 1994. In Europe PennWell launched Cabling Installation & Maintenance Europe in 2000, followed by Lightwave Europe in 2002.

In mid-2001 PennWell acquired another market research and management consulting firm, Strategies Unlimited of Mountain View, California. Strategies Unlimited specialized in a variety of leading-edge technologies, including optical networks, optoelectronic components, wireless communications, semiconductors, and similar high-technology industries. In 2002 the Advanced Technology Division introduced Optical Manufacturing, a bimonthly magazine that provided global coverage of optoelectronics and photonics manufacturing.

In 2003 PennWell was positioned as a dynamic business-to-business publisher and information provider for a range of industries. Over the years the company has successfully expanded beyond its base of oil, gas, and electric power markets to serve several high technology markets with top quality periodicals, conferences, exhibitions, and other information products. The company's commitment to quality, integrity, and honesty along with an aggressive growth plan have combined to make PennWell a successful company poised for future growth.

Principal Subsidiaries: PennEnergy.

Principal Divisions: Advanced Technology Division; Business and Industrial Division; Information Products Group; Petroleum Division.

Principal Competitors: CMP Media, Inc.; Hart Publications, Inc.; McGraw-Hill Companies; Penton Media, Inc.; Primedia, Inc.; Reed Business Information, Inc.

Further Reading:

  • "Advanstar, PurchasePro Create B-to-B Communities," Business Marketing, December 1, 1999, p. 8.
  • Callahan, Sean, "PennNet Wants to Strike It Rich with Web Auction," B to B, June 5, 2000, p. 3.
  • Cassidy, Neil, "Brown Buys Out PennWell Printing, Sells Division," Folio: The Magazine for Magazine Management, November 1, 1997, p. 21.
  • "Conference & Exhibition Co. Sold to PennWell," Business Publisher, May 31, 1999, p. 6.
  • "Data Storage," Folio: The Magazine for Magazine Management, October 1, 1994, p. 72.
  • "EL&P to Launch New Publication for Power Delivery Marketplace," Electric Light & Power, September 1991, p. 1.
  • Freeman, Laurie, "Oil & Gas Journal," Business Marketing, March 1, 1999, p. 24.
  • "IHS Completes Sale of Publishing Group Assets," Business Publisher, December 24, 1999, p. 6.
  • "Japanese Publisher Reflects on Partnership with Tulsa, Okla. Firm," Knight-Ridder/Tribune Business News, June 19, 2001.
  • "'Lightwave Europe' from PennWell in March," Business Publisher, November 17, 2001, p. 4.
  • "Lightwave to Publish China Supplement," Lightwave, August 2002, p. 33.
  • "PennWell Acquires Magazine from European Technology Publishing," Business Publisher, June 30, 1998.
  • "PennWell Acquires Market Research & Consulting Firm," Business Publisher, July 31, 1999, p. 5.
  • "PennWell Buys Market Research, Consulting Firm," Lightwave, October 2001, p. 54.
  • "PennWell Completes 42-Title Fulfillment Out-Conversion," Circulation Management, April 2000, p. 34.
  • "PennWell, Ebco Form Partnership," Oil Daily, January 28, 2000.
  • "PennWell Starts 'Cabling Installation & Maintenance Europe'," Business Publisher, January 31, 2000, p. 4.
  • Perin, Monica, "Houston Nets Pair of Energy Auctioneers," Houston Business Journal, February 4, 2000, p. 2.
  • Porter, Stephen M., "CGW Online: Check It Out!," Computer Graphics World, February 1996, p. 4.
  • Schwartz, Matthew, "PennWell Drills into Exchange," B to B, February 19, 2001, p. 16.
  • "Tulsa, Oklahoma-Based PennWell Publishing Company Has Purchased Independent Energy from Marier Communications Inc.," Folio: The Magazine for Magazine Management, September 15, 1995, p. 42.
  • "WaterWorld," Business Publisher, January 31, 1999, p. 8.

Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 55. St. James Press, 2003.