In the latter part of the 1990s Primedia bought a medium sized entrepreneurial business called ComutaNet. Founder of the business Alan Prentice and his partner, Ken Varejes, had established and grown the company beyond expectation.
I say ‘beyond’ because which client in those days would commit to advertising on mini bus taxis?
With dogged determination and Ken’s keen sense of what advertisers want, the business proved a winner. And that, of course, sparked Primedia’s interest in acquiring it.
At that point the flourishing Primedia (in terms of acquisitive growth at least) was buying a host of media businesses on the promise of riches for the founders, a purchase deal based on the growth of the share price through an acquisitive strategy delivered by the mercurial William Kirsh.
As the strategy unfolded it became clear that there were not that many media assets to buy of the calibre of ComutaNet. Undaunted, the acquisitions continued and were brought to an abrupt stop after the purchase of Ster Kinekor at what analysts described as a “rich price”.
ComutaNet was absorbed into the group and despite many offers, to remain with the group, a poorer Alan moved on.
Ken rebuffed the shackles of a corporate environment and launched what is now Primedia Unlimited made up of a number of smaller media companies and reputed to having had a successful rate of growth and profits over many years.
The founding partners of ComutaNet watched as the grip of bureaucracy took hold of their pride and joy. It lost its spirit, its loyal staff and its former profit levels.
Today we learned that in the latest of several attempts to revitalise the business, it is being merged with Primedia Outdoor.
I wish them well but can’t help hankering after that great little brand that created a desire for transit media.