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Ferrell: After acquisition, changes ahead for some Southcomm properties
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Update: NashvillePost said 3 November 2017 that Chris Ferrell has stepped down from the Southcomm CEO post. Earlier: According to a 10 December 2016 report by The Tennessean: Disagreement among Solidus LPs regarding investments in publisher Southcomm apparently among factors in MP Townes Duncan stepping down from that role, contemplating new fund and apparently still high on Southcomm. Bonaiuto has long since departed. Our 2015 story follows. -Ed.

CHRIS FERRELL, the founder and CEO of Solidus-backed Southcomm, is stepping into a full-on Operations role as president. Newly joined CEO Paul Bonaiuto has assumed the Southcomm helm.

Bonaiuto was previously the CFO of Wisconsin-based Cygnus Business Media, which was acquired by Southcomm on undisclosed terms within the past year, through two transactions. Bonaiuto and Southcomm's Cygnus holding remain based in Wisconsin.

Nashville-based Solidus remains majority owner of Southcomm, with Solidus Founder Townes Duncan serving as Southcomm's chairman, Ferrell confirmed. Bonaiuto's office said he was out today. This story will be updated as warranted.

Ferrell, a 45-year-old Jacksonville native who arrived Nashville 23 years ago, told VNC that Southcomm is generating about $65MM annual revenue, is profitable and has now doubled its workforce to about 420.

Paul Bonaiuto

Further M&A activity is not likely near-term, said Ferrell, emphasizing the need to integrate Cygnus holdings and otherwise strengthen businesses within the Southcomm portfolio.

The logic of Bonaiuto becoming CEO, with Ferrell returning to the operations role he loves, was clear from early in the acquisition process, said Ferrell.

Asked jokingly whether or not he might now run for Mayor of Nashville in the upcoming cycle, Ferrell said he expects to be too busy for that. Ferrell once served on Nashville Metro Council and once pursued the vice mayor's post.

Prior to joining Cygnus about five years ago, Bonaiuto was EVP-CFO of Wisconsin-based Journal Communications, from which he retired; and, still-earlier, was EVP of a Delaware-based boutique private-equity investment firm, The Peterson Group, according to information online.

Though declining to discuss the matter in detail, Ferrell confirmed that he has changes in the works for, among other things, Southcomm's 10-paper group of "Medical News" publications targeting key markets in the region. Business-media experts from Cygna will play influential roles in strengthening those publications, said Ferrell.

Chris Ferrell

Ferrell also said SouthernAlpha, a previously independent, but closely allied tech-oriented blog based in Nashville and serving the Southeastern U.S., is to be brought into Southcomm. SouthernAlpha Editor Kelley Boothe has recently been writing for sister business-news outlet, NashvillePost.com, with increasing frequency, he acknowledged.

Southcomm has for somet time vied for the top of the leaderboard as owner of alternative weeklies, including Nashville Scene. The company owns a total six such weeklies, here and in Atlanta, Tampa, Cincinnati, Kansas City and Washington, D.C.

In addition to NashvillePost.com (founded independently in 1999 by David Fox and Bill Carey, who have long-since gone on to other things), the company owns Southcomm Publishing; two NFOCUS titles (Louisville and Nashville); and, Florence, Ky.-based Target Marketing, which produces maps as marketing and fundraising vehicles for chambers of commerce.

It supports client advertising needs through its Southcomm Digital agency, which is run by David Walker, based in the D.C. area. And, said Ferrell, Southcomm plans to expand its Events programming and management business.

The Cygnus opportunity involved an auction process. Southcomm relied on Nashville bankers Iroquois Capital (principally, Linda Costello, a former Avondale Partners exec) for support on that front. Connecticut-based Credit Value Partners provided debt financing, said Ferrell.

Southcomm's other advisors have included Dodson Parker Behm & Capparella (principally, Tracy Kane) for legal services, and LBMC for accounting. VNC

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Tags: Bill Carey, Cygnus Business Media, David Fox, David Walker, Dodson Parker Behm Capparella, healthcare, Iroquois Capital, Kelley Boothe, LBMC, media, Medical News, Nashville Scene, NashvillePost.com, Paul Bonaiuto, publishing, Southcomm, Southcomm Digital, Southern Alpha, Townes Duncan

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