Wegener NV History

Address:
Laan van Westenenk 4, 7336 AZ Apeldoorn
Postbus 26, 7300 HB Apeldoorn
The Netherlands

Telephone: (31) 0 55 538 88 88
Fax: (31) 0 55 538 85 00

Website:
Public Company
Incorporated: 1903
Employees: 8,080
Sales: EUR 973 million ($957.6 million) (2001)
Stock Exchanges: Euronext Amsterdam
Ticker Symbol: WEG
NAIC: 511110 Newspaper Publishers; 511120 Periodical Publishers; 511140 Database and Directory Publishers; 541820 Public Relations Services; 551112 Offices of Other Holding Companies

Company Perspectives:

Wegener's central role is to deliver appropriate information to clearly defined target audiences and to provide access to specified audiences in an effective and efficient manner through media and marketing services. The company's activities are aimed so as to fulfill the needs of clients in the best possible way, with integrity and in a socially responsible manner. Wegener's entrepreneurial character--especially its capacity to identify and integrate new activities along with efficient and effective use of resources--permits the company to achieve ongoing growth in a dynamic and increasingly pan-European market environment. The company aims to hold leading positions in the relevant markets by directing its efforts toward annual increase of revenue and earnings per share.

Key Dates:

1903:
Johan Frederik Wegener founds Nieuwe Apeldoornsche Courant in Apeldoorn, Netherlands.
1930:
Het Zuiden, a free door-to-door paper in Rotterdam, is acquired.
1964:
Gerard Spanhaak is named editor-in-chief and reorients company into door-to-door market.
1969:
Wegener goes public on the Amsterdam Stock Exchange and begins an acquisition drive.
1974:
Regional newspaper group Drents-Groninger Pers is acquired.
1981:
Utrechts Nieuwsblad newspaper group is acquired.
1988:
The company merges with Koninklijke Tijl and changes its name to Wegener Tijl.
1992:
Wegener Tijl acquires Oostelijke Dagblad Combinatie, boosting regional newspaper portfolio to 30 papers.
1994:
Wegener Tijl acquires Sijthoff Pers, owner of the Haagsche Courant and other regional papers.
1996:
Arcade music group is acquired, and Wegener Tijl changes its name to Wegener Arcade.
1999:
Wegener Tijl begins selling off Arcade-related holdings and acquires Dudley Jenkins Plc, a leading UK direct marketing group, and VNU's newspaper division.
2000:
Wegener Tijl changes its name to Wegener NV and acquires Koba in France and ExSample in the Netherlands; all direct marketing operations are grouped under Wegener Direct Marketing.
2001:
Wegener NV acquires Wij-Speciaal Media in the Netherlands and 25 percent of Idata in France.

Company History:

Wegener NV is one of the Netherlands' leading newspaper publishing groups. The company claims the number one spot in the regional newspaper segment, with a 58 percent market share. Wegener, which also publishes and distributes a long list of free door-to-door newspapers, claims a 28 percent share of the total newspaper market in the Netherlands. In addition to its newspaper publishing activities, which are centered primarily on the Netherlands but also extend into Flemish/Dutch-speaking Belgium, Wegener has been building a strong presence in the European direct marketing segment through primary business unit Wegener Direct Marketing. In addition to the Netherlands, this division operates subsidiaries in France (through a 90 percent share of Sopres), Belgium, the United Kingdom (through the Dudley Jenkins Group), Hungary, and Scandinavia, with operations in 13 European countries. Known as Wegener Arcade during the late 1990s, the company has repositioned itself to focus on its core direct marketing and newspaper publishing activities, disposing of a number of operations, including its Arcade music group, its television holding--The Music Factory, sold to MTV in 2001--and a string of technical and trade journals. The company maintains a small presence in the local radio market through its Radio 10 group, which includes Radio 10 Gold, Jazzradio FM, and Love Radio. Wegener publishes a limited range of magazines, including Golfers Magazine, Golf Journaal, Golf Nieuws, and Party. The company has also built an extensive presence on the Internet, with a vast range of Web sites for its various newspapers. Other company activities include a cartography unit and publishing of local community guides. Listed on the Euronext Amsterdam Stock Exchange, Wegener posted sales of more than EUR 973 million ($950 million) in 2001.

Regional Publisher at the Turn of the 20th Century

Wegener's origins can be traced back to the turn of the twentieth century, when Johan Frederik Wegener founded a newspaper in the Netherlands' Apeldoorn in 1903. Wegener called his newspaper the Nieuwe Apeldoornsche Courant--because there was already an "old" Apeldoornsche Courant. Yet Wegener soon took over that paper as well, merging its expanded operation under the Nieuwe Apeldoornse Courant banner (the Dutch spelling system was simplified following World War II). Starting with just one subscriber, Wegener built up a thriving local business.

In 1930, the Wegener company made its first acquisition, purchasing Rotterdam-based Het Zuiden, a free door-to-door newspaper. That purchase was to become the cornerstone of a later Wegener specialty. Over the next decades, the company, which became known as the Wegener Couranten Concern, continued to add other titles, including door-to-door titles in the small towns of Tiel and Veenendaal. Wegener also branched out into magazine publishing, with titles including Rijdend Nederland, focused on the auto market.

By the early 1960s, however, Wegener faced disaster, particularly as losses mounted in the company's magazine publishing division. Led until then by the Wegener family, the company turned to outsider Gerard Spanhaak in 1964. A former journalist, Spanhaak had joined the company as an editor for the Nieuwe Apeldoornse Courant in 1953, becoming editor-in-chief in 1958.

Spanhaak was credited with laying the foundation of Wegener's later success. Taking the helm of the company in 1962, Spanhaak quickly sold off its money-losing magazine division and began plotting a strategy to keep the company afloat. In order to survive, Wegener needed to grow and achieve sufficient economies of scale--in 1962, the company's annual revenues amounted to just NFL 5 million, and the company's share of the Dutch newspaper market was less than 1 percent. Yet acquiring other newspapers in order to build up the company's core division would have been too costly for the cash-strapped, family-owned company.

Instead, Spanhaak pointed the company toward building scale in a more accessible market, that of small-scale door-to-door publications. The company adopted what Spanhaak himself described, as reported by the Apeldoornse Courant, as "a fairly aggressive policy for taking over newspapers." Over the next several years, the company acquired a number of small papers, targeting especially the Betuwe and Veluwe regions.

Wegener's acquisition drive took off especially after 1969, when the company went public on the Amsterdam Stock Exchange. In 1970, the company grouped just four newspaper titles in the Gelderland region, good for a total circulation of just over 47,000. But by 1972, Wegener had taken over some twenty door-to-door newspapers. The company had also entered the direct marketing market as an extension to its door-to-door business. The company's operations, however, had come to rely too heavily on the advertising-driven door-to-door market. In 1974, the company was able to address that imbalance by acquiring the Drents-Groninger Pers, which gave the company a number of new regional newspapers.

Spaanhak, who retired in 1982, prepared his largest expansion move in 1981, when the company successfully acquired the Utrechts Nieuwsblad holding company, beating out rival Elsevier and its Nederlandse Dagbladunie newspaper subsidiary. That acquisition marked the beginning of Wegener's development into one of the Netherland's leading newspaper publishing groups.

By 1988, the company had boosted its holdings to more than 17 regional newspapers, with total circulation of nearly 330,000. The company's revenues of that year, which topped NFL262 million (approximately $130 million), made Wegener one of the rising stars of the Dutch publishing firmament, with a market share of nearly 6 percent. In that year, the company merged with fellow newspaper group Koninkljke Tijl NV, changing its name to Wegener-Tijl. That acquisition also helped boost the company's catalog of trade journals and magazines, including titles such as Weekblad Motor and Automobile Klassiek.

Regional Publishing Leader for the New Century

Wegener continued targeting new acquisitions in the early 1990s. In 1992, the company acquired the Oostelijke Dagblad Combinatie, which boosted the company's portfolio of regional newspapers to 30, with total circulation of 600,000. By then, Wegener's market share neared 13 percent. The company was also expanding elsewhere, boosting its direct marketing division to market leadership and diversifying its publishing offering with the acquisition of Surrlan Beheer BV, which specialized in publishing maps and other cartographic products, as well as publishing municipal guidebooks.

In 1994, Wegener added Sijthoff Pers, publisher of the Haagsche Courant and other regional papers. That acquisition, which gave the company coverage across the Netherlands, led the company to realign its portfolio, selling off its holdings in the northernmost regions of the country. At the same time, the company reorganized its newspaper titles into five regional "clusters," merging its portfolio of titles under five primary titles, Apeldoornse Courant, Gelders Dagblad, Arnhemse Courant, Deventer Dagblad, and Overijssels Dagblad. In 1996, the company converted most of its newspaper titles to morning editions, making them more competitive in the crowded Dutch newspaper market. In 1997, Wegener added another local newspaper to its holdings, the Zeeuwse Courant.

By then, Wegener, led by chairman C. Appeldoorn, had attempted to step beyond publishing into the broader media arena by buying up music group Arcade, which, apart from music recording and publishing, operated one of the Netherlands' largest music retail chains, the Music Store, as well as a television station, TMF or The Music Factory, and several radio stations grouped under the Radio 10 name. The Arcade acquisition led Wegener to change its name to Wegener Arcade, as its sales now topped NFL1.4 billion (EUR 679 million).

Yet the marriage between Wegener and Arcade quickly proved an uneasy one, and by 1999 Wegener had begun selling off nearly all of its Arcade-related holdings, keeping little more than the Radio 10 radio station group. By 2000, the company was able to shorten its name to Wegener NV. The failure of the Arcade experiment led Wegener, under new chairman Jan Houwert, to redefine itself for the coming new century. The company refocused itself around two principal operations: publishing a core of regional newspapers and door-to-door titles--the company had sold off most of its magazine titles the year earlier, then sold its trade journals in 2000--and its various direct marketing activities, which were united into a single division, Wegener Direct Marketing, in 2000.

By then, that division was boosted with the acquisition of Dudley Jenkins Plc, one of the leading direct marketing groups in the United Kingdom, in a deal worth more than $120 million. The company had also begun expanding its direct marketing operations elsewhere in Europe, notably into Belgium and France through a 45 percent stake in Belgium's Sopres group, acquired in 1997. By 2001, the company had increased its position to a controlling share of more than 70 percent.

Yet the company's largest acquisition had come in 1999 with the purchase of the Dutch publishing group VNU's newspaper division, which included the Brabantse Dagbladen group as well as a range of free door-to-door newspapers. The acquisition, at a cost of some EUR 700 million, boosted Wegener's circulation by more than 800,000 and its revenues to more than EUR 975 million. The company was on its way to becoming the clear leader in the regional newspaper market, with a 58 percent share of that segment, and a 28 percent share of the overall newspaper market.

Wegener continued adding on to its newspapers titles, acquiring 11 door-to-door titles in the south of the Netherlands from H.J. Willems in 2000. Yet, with little room for further growth in the Netherlands, the company stepped up its investments in its direct marketing wing at the turn of the century. As with its newspaper portfolio, Wegener complemented its internal growth with a new acquisition program, which included the acquisition of France-based Koba and ExSample Media BV of the Netherlands, in 2000, then Wij-Speciaal Media of the Netherlands and the "Scandinavian Baby Bag" operations from Sweden's NIDAB in 2001. In that year, the company also acquired a 25 percent stake in France's IData, with a provision to extend its ownership to 75 percent by 2003.

Wegener had a difficult year in 2001 as a result of a poor economic climate, as well as increasing competition for advertisers, which saw its revenues slip back to EUR 973 million, while the company's profits plunged. The company expected to recover in 2002, however, through tighter cost controls. With circulation levels of more than 1.7 million, Wegener, which had begun preparations for celebrating its 100th anniversary, had come a long way from its beginning as a one-subscriber newspaper company.

Principal Divisions: Publishing; Direct Marketing.

Principal Subsidiaries: Brabants Dagblad BV; Dagblad Tubantia/Twentsche Courant BV; Dudley Jenkins Group Plc (United Kingdom); Eindhovens Dagblad BV, Eindhoven; ExSample Media BV; Interlanden Spreigroep BV,; Party Publishing BV; RDMS Direct Marketing BV; Sijthoff Pers BV, Rijswijk; Uitgeversmaatschappij De Gelderlander BV; Uitgeversmaatschappij Zuidwest-Nederland BV; Uitgeverij Provinciale Zeeuwse Courant BV; Wegener Direct Marketing Belgium, Brussel NV; Wegener Direct Marketing France SA; Wegener Hungary Direct Marketing KFT; Wegener Direct Marketing Nederland BV; Wegener DM Services BV; Wegener eMedia BV; Wegener Falkplan BV; Wegener Golf BV; Wegener Huis-aan-Huiskranten Nederland BV; Wegener Huis-aan-Huiskranten Oost BV; Wegener Huis-aan-Huiskranten Zuid BV; Wegener Informatie Centrum/WIC Media; Wegener Publicatie Services; Wegener Radio en Televisie BV; Wegener Scandinavia AB (Sweden); Wegener Uitgeverij Gelderland-Overijssel BV; Wegener Uitgeverij Midden Nederland BV; Wij Special Media BV.

Principal Competitors: VNU NV; HAL Holding NV; De Telegraaf Holdingmaatschappij NV; PCM Uitgevers NV; WPG Uitgevers BV; Sijthoff Pers BV; Verenigde Noordhollandse Dagbladen BV; PZC Holding BV; Biegelaar and Jansen BV.

Further Reading:

  • Bosveld, Johan, "Wegener slaat grote slag op postmarkt," Apeldoornse Courant, July 9, 2002.
  • Horlings, André, "Van één abonnee naar 1,3 miljoen," Deventer Dagblad, March 13, 2000.
  • Jagger, Suzy "Dudley Jenkins agrees pounds 80m bid," The Daily Telegraph, January 14, 1999.
  • Van Aartrijk, Steven, "Wegener verlaagt prognose voor hele jaar 2002," De Financieele Nieuwsdienst, August 14, 2002.
  • Van Amelsvoort, Herman, "Gerard Spanhaak 1919-2002: Motor achter expansie Wegener," Apeldoornse Courant, July 30, 2002.
  • Yorgey, Lisa A., "Starting at Ground zero," Target Marketing, May 2001, p. 30.
  • "Wegener Sees Flat 2001 Net Profit Before Extras," Reuters, April 24, 2001.

Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 53. St. James Press, 2003.